JOPLIN, Mo. —
Stroke prevention has long been a major focus between women and their doctors. A study released in February shows that there is good reason for that, and that younger women should also start to pay attention in order to reduce risk when they are older.
"When we think about stroke, we tend to think about older women," said Jennifer Theis, a nurse practitioner with Freeman Health System. "But these are things that carry lifelong consequences, so it's important to address them now."
The February study, released by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, identifies specific guidelines for women in order to prevent strokes. It shows how the risk of stroke is increased by pregnancy, birth control pills and migraine headaches.
Many of the sex- and pregnancy-related factors relate specifically to hypertension and preeclampsia, a high blood pressure condition where high levels of protein are found in urine. It can lead to eclampsia seizures during pregancy. From the study:
- Women with preeclampsia have twice the risk of stroke and four times risk of high blood pressure later in life. According to the study's authors, that means preeclampsia should be placed alongside traditional risk factors that require early treatment such as smoking, high cholesterol and obesity.
- Women with a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy should be considered for supplements of low-dose aspirin and/or calcium in order to reduce the risk of preeclampsia.
- Pregnant women should be treated for high blood pressure with medication depending on how high their blood pressure is.
- Before starting birth control pills, women should be screened for high blood pressure. According to the study, the combination raises stroke risks later in life.
- Women who have migraine headaches with aura, or visual phenomena, should stop smoking in order to reduce stroke risks.