FOX 5 Medical Team: Stroke risk for young women

FOX 5 Medical Team: Stroke risk for young women

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

It's a wakeup call for younger women:

Stroke can be a serious problem for women, even young women who may not realize they're at-risk.

The American Heart Association says stroke is the third leading cause of death in women in the U.S.

And for the first time, the Heart Association is releasing stroke prevention guidelines specifically for women, starting during their childbearing years.

A stroke is a blood clot or bleed in the brain, that cuts offs blood flow to the brain tissue. Warning signs include facial drooping, weakness, especially on one side of the body, slurred speech, confusion, and problems walking. Left untreated, stroke can quickly become life-threatening.

Women have several unique issues that raise their risk of stroke:

A major one is uncontrolled high blood pressure, especially during pregnancy.

That's known as preeclampsia and can double a woman's risk of stroke during and after childbirth and quadruple her stroke risk later in life. So, these guidelines focus on preventing and treating blood pressure disorders both before and during pregnancy.

Other things that can raise your risk of stroke include taking birth control pills, smoking and suffering from migraine headaches that come with an aura.

So, what do these new stroke prevention guidelines mean for you? That depends on your situation. But here are a few of the recommendations:

• If you're a woman trying to get pregnant, and you have high blood pressure, your doctor may want to put you on low-dose aspirin therapy, or calcium supplements to head off blood pressure problems during your pregnancy.

• If you're pregnant - and you have moderately high blood pressure - you may need to take medication to lower it.

• Before you start taking birth control pills, you need to be screened for high blood pressure.

The pills and blood pressure combined significantly raise your risk of a blood clot.

• If you suffer from migraines that come with an aura, you need to quit smoking. It's too dangerous.

And the American Heart Association says lifestyle is also important, too.

• Hormone therapy during menopause may also raise your risk of stroke, but the link here is not quite as clear. HRT is *not* recommended as a tool to prevent stroke.

• If you're a woman age 75 and older, your doctor should be screening you for atrial fibrillation – because that, too, can raise your stroke risk.

And the American Heart Association says little things, like eating healthier, exercising daily and quitting smoking - can go a long way in lowering your stroke risk.

The bottom line: stroke is something women - even young women - need to have on their radar screen.

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