7 STROKE RISK FACTORS WOMEN SHOULD KNOW

Some factors that elevate the risk of a stroke are common for both men and women – things like high blood pressure, a high-fat diet, obesity, and smoking. But for women, there are additional risk factors that men may not have. Talk to your doctor about how to manage your risks.

WHAT CAUSES STROKES?

7 STROKE RISK FACTORS WOMEN SHOULD KNOW

Key Takeaways

STROKES CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE AT ANY AGE

What causes strokes in women is the same in both men and women, the stroke risk factors women face can be different.


WOMEN HAVE UNIQUE STROKE RISKS 

What causes strokes in women is the same in both men and women, the stroke risk factors women face can be different. 


KNOWING YOUR RISK LEVEL IS KEY

While there are some factors you can’t control, managing the ones you can goes a long way.

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in women. But even stroke survivors often experience some type of disability. A stroke can happen to a woman at almost any age – even to women in their twenties.

This year alone, more than 100,000 U.S. women under 65 will suffer some kind of stroke. Most women don’t realize that the medical regimen they receive for other conditions can heighten the risk of stroke. Many of those strokes can be avoided simply by being aware of the risks and talking with your doctor to make appropriate changes.


Know Your Risk Factors

Strokes can happen to anyone, at any age. And while most stroke risk factors are common to both women and men, there are some that are unique to women, especially young women.

Here are some of the stroke risk factors every woman should be aware of:

BIRTH CONTROL PILLS

Taking birth control pills, even a low-estrogen dose, could double the stroke risk for women compared to women who don’t take birth control pills. That risk increases even more if other risk factors are present.

HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY

Postmenopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy may be increasing their stroke risk by about a third.

HISTORY OF PREECLAMPSIA/ECLAMPSIA

If you experienced preeclampsia or eclampsia, elevated blood pressure during pregnancy, it could increase your risk of future hypertension and stroke even up to 30 years after delivery.

MIGRAINE HEADACHES

Women who suffer from migraines accompanied by visual disturbances such as flashing dots or blind spots (known as “aura”) can be up to 10 times more likely to suffer a stroke, depending on other risk factors.

HYPERTENSION (HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE)

Many women go through life with elevated blood pressure and feel no symptoms whatsoever, so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly – especially during pregnancy. Hypertension is often caused by plaque building up inside blood vessels, which causes the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. If a piece of plaque breaks off and blocks blood flow to the brain, it can cause a clot-related (ischemic) stroke.

AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES

Some autoimmune diseases such as diabetes or lupus can often increase stroke risk for women.

CLOTTING DISORDERS

If you’ve had more than one miscarriage, you may be at a higher risk of forming blood clots, which increases the chance of having a stroke. Other signs of a possible clotting disorder can include any previous history of clots in the legs (known as “deep vein thrombosis” or DVT) and livedo reticularis (a mottled, purplish discoloration of the skin).

These risks are very common, but don’t despair because reducing even one stroke factor can make a big difference.

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MANAGING RISK:

WHY PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS MAY NOT BE ENOUGH

If you take prescription medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, they may not be enough to protect your heart. Talk to your doctor about whether these medications are enough for you and whether adding an aspirin regimen can help further reduce the risk of another heart attack or clot-related (ischemic) stroke.

LEARN HOW ASPIRIN COULD HELP

Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regime. 

STROKE SURVIVORS HAVE A LOT TO LIVE FORWARD TO

Get inspired by what motivates these stroke survivors.

middle aged woman with younger woman

PENNY S.

“It’s like you’re there, but it’s like you’re in an [out of] body experience.”

SEE PENNY’S STORY >
candid photo of an stroke survivor

ANNA B.

“I didn’t think I was having a stroke. I knew everyone was acting really urgent. It was scary for me!”

SEE ANNA’S STORY >
older man smiling

TOM K.

“I had very good handwriting … and now it’s terrible, but that’s a small price to pay in this life and death situation.”

SEE TOM’S STORY >
woman smiling

JOYCE A.

“I’m celebrating my 52nd birthday in two weeks, and … I’m thankful to be alive.”

SEE JOYCE’S STORY >
woman smiling

TONI G.

“Education is key for me. I feel so good that I’m able to help people.”

SEE TONI’S STORY >

Aspirin regimen products for recurrent stroke prevention

Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen.

This tool is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, medical advice, or medical treatment. Contact your healthcare provider after using the tool to discuss your heart health or if you have any health concerns.

Estimated risk of a cardiovascular event, specifically, the risk of a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI) or stroke in the next five years.