Stroke kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer. The good news, however, is that it can be prevented if you are aware of the risk factors.
# 1 Preeclampsia
After the 20th week of pregnancy, some women develop preeclampsia, a disorder characterized by a spike in blood pressure, along with higher amounts of protein in the urine – both of which increase the chance of having a stroke. Although preeclampsia usually disappears within six weeks of delivery, it can almost double the risk of having a stroke later in life. If you have had high blood pressure before pregnancy, you have about a 25 percent chance of preeclampsia, so ask your doctor to monitor your health more closely. Also, monitor your blood pressure regularly for at least six months after giving birth to see if it has returned to normal.
# 2 Migraine
These unbearable headaches, which affect three to four times more women than men, can double the risk of an ischemic stroke (which occurs when a blood clot clogs a blood vessel leading to the brain). Researchers conclude that in people suffering from migraines, the vascular system does not function properly, leading to an increased risk of stroke. Although there is currently no cure for migraine, you can proactively reduce the risk of stroke through exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation.
# 3 Birth control pills
Several studies have shown that women who take oral contraceptives are twice as likely to have a stroke as those who do not. The hormones in the tablets increase the risk of blood clots and high blood pressure. Cases where a stroke could be directly linked to hormonal contraception are extremely rare, especially in healthy young women, but if other risk factors are seen in you, the chance of blood clots jumping significantly. A study in a group of women aged 15 to 49 found that smokers with migraines with aura (flashing lights or blind spots) who took birth control pills had a seven times higher risk of stroke than women with the same a form of migraine that does not smoke or take birth control pills.
# 4 Uneven beat
If the upper ventricles beat inconsistently with the lower ones – the professional name for this phenomenon is atrial fibrillation – blood can start to accumulate in the upper ventricles, increasing the risk of clots. You don’t even need to see a doctor to find out if you have atrial fibrillation – a 60-second heart rate check at home is enough. If you notice that your heartbeat is uneven or faster than usual, talk to your doctor. This will refer you to a specialist who will perform appropriate tests and suggest a treatment that will keep your heart in rhythm again.