Women are both more likely to suffer a stroke, and less likely to be treated in a timely manner when they experience one. May is Stroke Awareness Month, and today on St. Louis on the Air Dr. Amer Alshekhlee of the SSM Neurosciences Institute outlined five risk factors that increase the likelihood a woman will have a stroke.
- Pregnancy. Because women have an increased chance of developing high-blood pressure while pregnant, pregnant women are also more likely to suffer a stroke than non-pregnant women in the same age group.
- Migraines. Migraines with auras have been linked to strokes, and almost 17 percent of women suffer from migraines, said Alshekhlee. By comparison, only six percent of men have migraines.
- Auto-Immune Diseases. Women are also more likely to develop auto-immune diseases, such as lupus and diabetes. They too have been linked to an increased risk of stroke.
- Preeclampsia. Women who develop hypertension or preeclampsia during pregnancy continue to have an increased risk of stroke even after the pregnancy. That risk also carries over to the baby they were carrying, who are at greater risk of stroke later in life than babies born to mothers who did not have preeclampsia.
- Oral Contraceptives. Women who use oral contraceptives double their risk of suffering a stroke. Women who are obese and use oral contraceptives increase their risk by a factor of four. And women with high blood pressure who use oral contraceptives are at a tenfold risk of stroke.
Just as with men, the risk of stroke increases with age. But no matter your age, Alshekhlee recommended going over all of your risk factors with your doctor one by one in order to address ways to reduce your overall risk of a stroke. It’s also important to report any unusual symptoms that develop, because the signs of a stroke in women can be subtle, such as a severe headache or dizziness.