If you thought breast cancer was the bigger killer you are not alone as women in a recent survey said they were only a little, or not at all concerned about experiencing a stroke in their life. Further most of the women surveyed women were not aware they are more likely than men to have a stroke.
Risk factors for both men and women:
- a family history of stroke
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- being overweight
- not exercising
Risk factors unique to women:
- birth control pills
- pregnancy; stroke risk increases during a normal pregnancy due to natural changes in the body such as increased blood pressure and stress on the heart
- HRT with its combination of synthetic progestin and oestrogen
- having a thick waist and high triglyceride (blood fat) level; post-menopausal women with a waist size larger than 35.2 inches and a triglyceride level higher than 128 milligrams per liter may have a five-fold increased risk for stroke
- migraines can increase a woman’s stroke risk 3-6 times if suffered frequently, and women have them far more often than men
Identifying the signs of a stroke:
Speed really is of the essence if you see any of the signs of a stroke do not hesitate but get medical help immediately and check with this F.A.S.T. test:
F—FACE: Ask them to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—ARMS: Ask them to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—SPEECH: Ask them to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T—TIME: If you observe any of these signs, get help.
Symptoms are common to both men and women:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg — especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Symptoms unique to women:
- sudden face and limb pain
- sudden hiccups
- sudden nausea
- sudden general weakness
- sudden chest pain
- sudden shortness of breath
- sudden palpitation
Again get immediate help if you see these signs.
How to reduce your risk:
The risk of an ischemic stroke (the most common) is increased by excess oestrogen which is why long term use of medications containing it, such as the Pill and HRT, have been linked to a potential 40% increase in having a stroke.
Oestrogen dominance can affect many of the body’s functions and progesterone counteracts several risk factors including helping with menstrual induced migraines and improving the tone of the blood vessels to promote better blood flow. If you have symptoms of oestrogen dominance – see Dr Shirley Bond’s article here – then supplementing with bioidentical natural progesterone will help minimize that risk.
Diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are also key in reducing stroke risk. Important elements are plenty of fruit and vegetables, a good intake of Omega-3 from fish, nuts and seeds and B vitamins to lower homocysteine levels – another risk factor.
Several studies have shown that greater consumption of fruit and vegetables has been linked with reduced risk of stroke but new research is also pointing up the importance of the compounds called flavanones that are present in citrus fruit. Aedin Cassidy, head of nutrition at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia, and her team used 14 years of follow-up data on 70,000 women from the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study.
Total flavonoid intake did not reduce stroke risk, but intake of flavanones did, the researchers said. Women who ate the most flavanones had a 19 percent lower risk of blood-clot related stroke than those who ate the least. Women with the lowest intake of flavanones took in about 150 milligrams a day of flavonoids or less, compared to more than 470 milligrams a day in the highest group with a typical piece of citrus fruit containing 45 to 50 milligrams of flavanones.
Aedin Cassidy said that it’s possible that the flavanones in citrus fruit improve blood vessel function or reduce inflammation, which has been also linked with stroke risk. For maximum benefit, eat the fruit rather than drinking juice as they contain more flavanones and no added sugar.
As those consuming the most citrus fruit and juice had a 10 percent reduced risk of stroke compared with those eating none, it is definitely worth starting the day with grapefruit, adding lemon juice to your salad and adding in an orange as a teatime snack. Oh and besides fruits and vegetables, flavonoids are found in red wine and dark chocolate – just in time for Easter!