What women from Harlem to Harare need to know about stroke risks

It may not be widely known that women face unique risk factors for stroke throughout their lives. Things like pregnancy, preeclampsia, and chronic stress can increase your risk of high blood pressure, a leading cause of stroke.

Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 1 in 5 women will have a stroke.

However, a large majority of strokes can be prevented.

Taking care of yourself by understanding your risk factors can help reduce your risk of stroke and provide a better quality of life.

Start managing your risk of stroke with these tips from the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association:

Monitor your blood pressure

The first step you can take to reduce your risk of stroke is to know your blood pressure and keep it within a healthy range. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is the #1 preventable cause of stroke.

The best way to know your blood pressure is to have a doctor check it at least once a year and monitor it regularly at home, and then discuss the readings with a doctor.

For most people, normal blood pressure should be 120/80 mm Hg or less.

In addition to proper blood pressure monitoring, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, and reducing or eliminating alcohol and tobacco use can all help control blood pressure.

If you develop high blood pressure, work with a doctor on a plan to control it.

planning pregnancy

In the United States, high blood pressure is becoming increasingly common during pregnancy, according to the CDC, and medical conditions such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and blood clots during pregnancy all increase the risk of stroke during and immediately after pregnancy.

Treating conditions like high blood pressure before pregnancy will help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy and beyond.

In addition, your health during and immediately after pregnancy can shape the lifelong health of you and your child.

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If you are planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant, it is important to check your blood pressure regularly.

Take care of your mental health
Some stress is unavoidable, but constant stress is not healthy. Chronic or constant stress can lead to high blood pressure and other unhealthy behaviors that can increase the risk of stroke.

Based on the results of a 2020 Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, money, work, family responsibilities, and health issues are the top sources of stress.

Managing your stress and blood pressure can improve your overall health and well-being.

Take back control of your schedule and build time to invest in your health. Take 10 minutes each day to do something for yourself, like listen to music, meditate, or go for a walk.

Learn the warning signs

A stroke can strike anyone at any time in life. Prompt treatment can help minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. Learn how to spot a stroke FAST:

  • Drooping Face – Is one side of the face drooping or numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile irregular?
  • Arm Weakness – Is an arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Is one arm drifting down?
  • Speech Difficulties – Is the speech slurred? Can’t speak or is it difficult to understand the person? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase like “The sky is blue.”
  • Time to call 911 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get to a hospital right away. Check the time so you know when the first symptoms appeared.

Talk to your doctor about ways to improve your well-being and prevent strokes. For more wellness tips, see stroke.org.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

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