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HEALTH

A STROKE HAPPENS when blood                      STROKE                                    blood pressure, diabetes or migraine
flow to the brain is interrupted,          WARNING SIGNS                                   with aura, is at a higher risk for
depriving it of oxygen. For women,                                                         ischemic stroke while she uses oral
strokes are a much bigger threat            The most effective stroke treatments are       contraceptives. For all other women, the
than most people think. Annually,           only available if the stroke is recognized     risk of birth control-related stroke is
about 55,000 more American                  and diagnosed as quickly as possible.          minimal.
women than men have a stroke.                                                           »» Using hormone replacement therapy
                                               You’ll be more prepared to act quickly      to relieve menopausal symptoms.
   In an era where pink ribbons for         if you learn to recognize these telltale,   »» Suffering from migraine headaches
breast cancer awareness appear              sudden-onset signs of a stroke:                with auras—visual or sensory
frequently, strokes have quietly become     »» Confusion, trouble speaking or              disturbances. These increase your
the third-leading cause of death for                                                       stroke risk by two and a half times.
American women and a leading cause of          difficulty understanding speech          »» Being pregnant. Pregnancy-related
disability.                                 »» Numbness or weakness in the face,           changes to your body, such as stress
                                                                                           on your heart and increased blood
   “Each year, strokes kill twice as           arm or leg, especially on one side of       pressure. This causes an increased
many women as breast cancer. A lot of          the body                                    stroke risk during pregnancy,
people don’t know that,” says Denise        »» Severe headache with no                     and other conditions—such as
Goings, MSN, RN, SCRN, Stroke Program          apparent cause                              preeclampsia—increase the risk for
Coordinator at The Medical Center,          »» Trouble seeing in one or both eyes          stroke later in life.
Navicent Health. “Women typically have      »» Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of         “During pregnancy, keep close tabs
strokes in our later years. We have a          balance or lack of coordination          on your blood pressure and any kind
tendency to take care of everybody else        Women may experience other               of stress on your heart. Just make sure
throughout our lives, and then our own      symptoms as well, including:                you’re tuned in to what your body is
health slides.”                             »» General weakness                         saying to you,” Goings says. “Keep your
                                            »» Hallucinations                           follow-up medical appointments. Lead a
   The lack of focus on strokes can be      »» Hiccups                                  healthy lifestyle. Avoid greasy foods or
deadly, Goings says. If women don’t         »» Loss of consciousness or fainting        foods high in sodium.”
know they’re at risk, they’re more likely   »» Nausea or vomiting
to downplay their symptoms and avoid        »» Pain                                     PREVENTING STROKES
going to the hospital if they’re actually   »» Seizures
having a stroke.                            »» Shortness of breath                      To reduce your stroke risk, a healthy diet
                                            »» Sudden behavioral change                 is key, as are these tips:
   And if you’re having a stroke,              If you spot symptoms of a                »» If you smoke cigarettes and you
every minute counts. Getting medical        stroke, don’t ignore them. Call 911
treatment as quickly as possible can        immediately.                                   experience migraines with aura, stop
make a huge difference in the amount of                                                    smoking immediately.
brain damage a stroke can cause.              “Some symptoms may go                     »» If you’re pregnant, monitor your blood
                                            undetected because women                       pressure.
WOMEN’S RISK FACTORS                        may not pay attention to them,”             »» Before starting a birth control regimen,
                                            says Denise Goings, MSN,                       get screened for high blood pressure.
Women tend to live longer than men,         RN, SCRN, Stroke Program                    »» If you’re over 75, get screened for atrial
which is probably why more women            Coordinator at The Medical                     fibrillation—an irregular heartbeat.
than men experience strokes each year.      Center, Navicent Health. “The               »» If you have concerns, get checked out
However, women still need to take steps     percentage of strokes in women                 by a doctor. Don’t put it off.
to protect themselves. Know what puts       age 45 or younger is increasing,               “Prevention in general is staying healthy,
you at risk, and learn what steps you can   and younger women may have                  eating a healthy diet and monitoring risk
take to lower your risk.                    different symptoms.”                        factors,” Goings says. “We have risk factors
                                                                                        we can and cannot control. If you have
   There are certain factors that put                                                   some that you cannot control, such as your
everyone—women and men—in danger                                                        age or your gender, you want to focus on
of having a stroke. These include                                                       those factors you can control.”
high blood pressure, high cholesterol,                                                    LOOKING FOR A DOCTOR TO HELP
diabetes, smoking, being overweight and                                                 YOU ESTABLISH HEALTHY HABITS?
lack of exercise.                                                                       VISIT WWW.NAVICENTHEALTH.ORG/
                                                                                        FIND-A-DOCTOR.
   But women are faced with other risk
factors, such as:                                                                       5SUMMER 2019 | navicenthealth.org 
»» Using birth control. Any woman

   who already has stroke risk factors,
   such as age, cigarette smoking, high
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