New Guidelines to Prevent Strokes in Women, Focus on Risks from Birth Control, Pregnancy

First Posted: Feb 07, 2014 05:56 AM EST

A new study suggests that birth control, pregnancy, depression, menopause and other factors heighten risk of stroke in women.

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA) has laid out new guidelines for preventing strokes in women and also focused on symptoms that differ between men and women.

 A team of researchers from the University of Chicago, AHA, ASA and other stroke council committees made a thorough review of all published studies on the topic and summarized the risk factors that are unique and common in women. The panel has published the guidelines in the Heart Association Journal Stroke.

It says women need to take blood pressure tests before using contraceptives and also during pregnancy.  The guidelines also mention that women over 75 year with erratic heartbeats should be checked for arterial fibrillation. They also advise against hormone replacement therapy for those who are menopausal. Women who smoke or use oral contraceptives up their risk of stroke. The study recommends low doses of aspirin to help reduce chances of stroke among diabetic women.

Dr Cheryl Bushnell, the study author and stroke chief at Wake-Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, says in a press statement, "If you are a woman, you share many of the same risk factors for stroke with men, but your risk is also influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth and other sex-related factors."

Each year nearly 800,000 Americans have strokes caused by arterial fibrillation, a condition that occurs when blood vessels get clogged by a clot. According to the report, strokes are the third leading causes of death for women and fifth leading cause for men in the U.S. The symptoms include migraine with aura, obesity, metabolic syndrome, weakness, numbness in the limbs and arterial fibrillation. The report aims to help doctors and patients recognize symptoms and treat it early to avoid disabilities and more in women. Changes in lifestyle, healthy diet and regular physical activities will help ward off the deadly condition.

The researchers says further research is needed to find more risk factors and symptoms for stroke risk in women. Bushnell said, "More studies need to be done to develop a female-specific score to identify women at risk for stroke."

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