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Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds. In fact, stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer. A stroke occurs when blood circulation is cut off from the brain, depriving brain cells of oxygen necessary to function. When this happens, brain cells die and essential cognitive abilities are affected. In more severe cases, a stroke can be fatal.
Though women share some of the same risks as men for stroke, they are more susceptible to this condition because women’s risks are also influenced by hormones, childbirth and reproductive health. However, through education and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, more than 75 percent of stroke events can be prevented. Here are some ways to protect yourself and help reduce the risk of a stroke.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the main contributors in increasing the risk of stroke. This is especially true for pregnant women who develop preeclampsia, or high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy. Women with preeclampsia are at double the risk of a stroke, and should take serious precaution under the guidance of a healthcare physician.
Maintaining a healthy diet will do wonders for your blood pressure, your overall health and the health of your baby. Reducing your daily salt intake and avoiding foods high in cholesterol can help to significantly lower blood pressure and provide you with more energy throughout the day.
Monitor Your Blood Sugar
If you live with diabetes, it is imperative that you monitor your blood sugar. High blood sugar can cause damage to your blood vessels and increase the likelihood of blood clots. In order to maintain a healthy blood sugar level, maintain a high-fiber diet, quit your smoking habit and consider limiting your alcohol intake. Remember that all portions are not created equal.
Birth Control Risks
For healthy women with little to no additional stroke risk factors, birth control use carries a small risk for stroke. Combined with other risk factors such as high blood pressure, oral contraceptives — even at the lowest dose — can greatly increase the risk of arterial blood clotting, leading to a stroke. Discuss alternatives to your birth control with your healthcare provider if you feel you are at an increased risk of stroke.
Know Your Medication
Age introduces a number of onset symptoms and conditions that are sometimes unmanageable without medication, including heartburn, indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease. To help alleviate discomfort, doctors may prescribe proton pump inhibitors — such as Nexium, Prilosec, Dexilant — that decrease the amount of gastric acid produced in the stomach.
Similar to understanding the risks your birth control may have on your health, it is important to understand the same issues with your current medication. Though effective, PPIs carry many side effects:
- Joint pain
- Skin rash
Some PPIs are also known to increase the risk of stroke by as high as 94 percent. Consider talking with your doctor about safer alternatives, especially if you may need to take these drugs for an extended period of time.
Cook with Olive Oil
A balanced diet is essential to a healthy heart and a healthier life. What you cook with contributes greatly to this factor. It has been shown that cooking with olive oil regularly lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke by about 40 percent. So whether you are sauteing, baking or frying your next meal, be sure to include olive oil in your ingredient list.
Get Some Sleep
Have you ever awoke more tired than when you initially fell asleep the night before? That could mean you slept too little, or too long. Sleeping in on the weekends can be an enticing activity, but consistently over-sleeping can affect your health in the long run. A stretch longer than 10 hours at a time can increase your stroke risk by close to 60 percent. Stick to the recommended seven hours and use the remainder to kick start your day and maintain productivity.
Go for a Walk
Staying physically active is crucial to maintaining optimal health and reducing the risk for stroke and heart disease. This is specifically true as it relates to walking. Walking at least two hours a week, at a leisurely pace, can reduce stroke risk by 30 percent. Imagine the impact walking briskly can have on your health. Try to push yourself to walk at least 20 minutes daily. You’ll feel good and your body will thank you later.
Written By: Kiara Anthony
The American Heart Association. (n.d.). New Guidelines to Reduce Stroke Risk in Women. Retrieved from https://www.goredforwomen.org/about-heart-disease/heart_disease_research-subcategory/new-guidelines-reduce-stroke-risk-women/
The American Heart Association. (n.d.). Heart Disease Statistics at a Glance. Retrieved from https://www.goredforwomen.org/about-heart-disease/facts_about_heart_disease_in_women-sub-category/statistics-at-a-glance/
Dumain, T. (2011, November 3). 9 Ways To Never Have A Stroke. Retrieved from http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/women-and-stroke-how-lower-your-stroke-risk
Harvard Health Publications. (2015, October 9). 7 things you can do to prevent a stroke. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/8-things-you-can-do-to-prevent-a-stroke
Loyola University Health System. (2015, September 18). Birth control pills pose small but significant stroke risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 27, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150918132654.htm
National Stroke Association. (n.d.). What is stroke? Retrieved from http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/what-stroke
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