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Research Finds 7 Unique Risk Factors For Stroke in Women

Armen Hareyan's picture
Women and Stroke

Scientists from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted a study which identified what unique factors increase the risk of stroke in women.


Many of these factors are widespread, so researchers recommend that doctors take them into account and that patients report any symptoms they have to a doctor.

Research has shown that stroke remains one of the leading causes of death among women. In the US, stroke is one of the leading causes of female mortality and disability.

More women are affected by stroke than men because the average life expectancy of women is higher. In the United States, the number of women affected by stroke exceeds the number of men who have had a stroke by 55,000 per year.

"Many do not realize that women suffer from stroke more often than men, and the mortality rate among women is higher. We intend to study in detail why women suffer from stroke more often and which factors contribute to a disproportionate increase in risk," said the author of the study, Catherine Rexrod, from the
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who published her team's research in Circulation Research.

With age, the likelihood that a woman will be affected by stroke increases. In fact, as women get older, they are more likely to be affected by stroke than by heart attack.

Researchers studied possible causes of stroke with several types of factors: the level of sex hormones, the use of hormonal contraceptives and medications, characteristics of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause.

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Female-specific risk factors for stroke

Dr. Rexrod and her team concluded that women who have the following symptoms have an increased risk of stroke:

  1. the onset of menstruation up to 10 years;
  2. the onset of menopause up to 45 years;
  3. low level of dehydroepiandrosterone (the most abundant steroid in humans);
  4. intake of oral contraceptives (with estrogens or combined);
  5. gestational diabetes;
  6. hypertension during pregnancy or immediately after childbirth;
  7. preeclampsia.

It was found that the early onset of menstruation (up to 10 years) and early menopause (up to 45 years) increase the risk of the disease.

Taking combined oral contraceptives also increases the risk of stroke in women.

In addition, women who experienced complications during pregnancy with preeclampsia and gestational diabetes were also at higher risk of stroke.

What To Do About Stroke

Even a little exercise helps to cut stroke risk in women. This 2014 research shows that for women, even moderate exercise can reduce stroke risk by 20% and offset the increased risk in women taking postmenopausal hormone therapy. Reduce your depression and improve your inner peace. If you are a middle-aged woman suffering from depression, your risk of having a stroke is more than twice that of your non-depressed counterparts, according to this study in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.