For the first time, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have issued guidelines aimed at reducing stroke risk in women. Each year, 55,000 more strokes occur in women than in men and represent the third leading cause of death for women (they’re the fifth leading cause for men).
Highlights of the guidelines include:
- Pregnancy: Women with high blood pressure before pregnancy or a history of preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure) should be considered for a low-dose aspirin regimen to decrease the risk of preeclampsia; aspirin should be taken from the 12th week of gestation until delivery.
Women with a systolic blood pressure of 150 to 159 mm Hg and a diastolic reading of 100 to 109 mm Hg should be considered for blood pressure medication. Pregnant women with blood pressure of 160/110 mm Hg should be treated.
- History of preeclampsia: This condition should be considered a risk factor for stroke later in life.
- Hormonal contraceptives: Having high blood pressure and taking birth control pills raise the risk of stroke, so women should be screened before taking the pill.
- Migraines: Women who experience migraines with aura should avoid smoking to avoid further increasing risk.
- Atrial fibrillation: Women older than 75 should be screened for this heart arrhythmia.