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New stroke risks for women announced

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The American Heart Association just released guidelines for preventing strokes in women. The guidelines look at things distinctly female in nature that increase the chance of a stroke and then provide recommendations for treating the problem. It’s not that women don’t share many of the same risk factors that men because we do. But women are often overachievers and this is just another one of those cases where that is true. So, if you are a woman and you’ve ever had any of the following, you have an increased risk of having a stroke.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, could have been pregnant (because you are female) or are currently pregnant, you could have a higher risk of stroke in the following cases:

• Women with a history of high blood pressure during pregnancy should take low-dose aspirin and/or calcium supplement therapy to lower the risk of having preeclampsia (blood pressure disorders that can cause major complication during or after delivery) risks during the pregnancy.

• If you have ever had preeclampsia, you have twice the risk of stroke and four times the risk of high blood pressure later in life.

• Women who are currently pregnant and have moderately high blood pressure (150-159 over 100-109) may be considered for high blood pressure medication.

• Expectant mothers with severe high blood pressure (160/110 or higher) should be treated.

• If you are considering going on birth control, you should be screened for high blood pressure because birth control pills and high blood pressure raises your stroke risk.

Okay. I admit most of the people reading this aren’t likely to need to be treated in any of these cases but if you are a woman, you might also be a mother, grandmother or aunt and those individuals are much better at harassing (i.e. giving advice because they are concerned) than doctors. If you are feeling left out; here’s a list of more risk factors.

• Women with migraine headaches with aura (see here for what that is) should stop smoking to avoid higher stroke risks.

• Women over the age of 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation risks due to its link to higher stroke risks.

More studies need to be done (of course).

It’s good to know the warning signs of things like stroke or heart attack so that you’ll recognize them should you ever begin to experience them.  So here are the signs for some of the most common diseases in older people.

Warning signs for a heart attack

Warning signs for stroke

Warning signs for diabetes

Warning signs for cancer

Of course, it’s far better to act before you have any of these signs. Talk with your doctor about things you can do to increase your likelihood of having a healthy retirement. Remember, your greatest asset is your health. The time to begin squirreling away that asset is when you are still healthy. If you are 65 or older, consider having a geriatric physician as your primary care physician. While the aging process does gradually affect our physical bodies, a geriatric physician will have an easier time of determining if how you are aging is healthy aging or something else entirely.

Not everyone experiences warning signs before they experience a stroke or heart attack. Three well-known individuals who were asymptomatic (meaning they showed no previous indicators) were actor James Gandolfini of ‘The Sopranos’ who passed away in June 2013 of a heart attack while in Italy at age 51, George Weyerhaeuser Jr. scion of the family that founded the timber-products company that bears his name, and finally television journalist and lawyer, Tim Russert, who died at age 58. For people that can afford to consider a medical service model not funded by Medicare and insurance plans, a concierge physician offers an approach to preventive medicine beyond the mainstream. Here’s a link to an article by Dr. Rob Emerick, a concierge physician in Gig Harbor, WA.

To read more about strokes in women, go here.

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