The American Heart Association issued its first guidelines for preventing stroke in women this week. Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women.
The new guidelines focus on gender-specific risk factors, including birth control, pregnancy, and migraines, which are more common in women than men.
Dr. Pierre Fayad, the director of the stroke center at the Nebraska Medical Center, said the guidelines will help doctors screen patients for stroke and help female patients know and lower their risk.
He answered a few common questions about the new guidelines:
Question: I'm on birth control. Should I be worried?
Answer: If your blood pressure is under control, you're active and you don't smoke, you're OK. But birth control does increase the risk of stroke, so if you have any symptoms, do not ignore them.
Q: How can I protect myself from stroke if I'm pregnant?
A: Stay hydrated and active. Make your doctors aware of your family history. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor if you should take baby aspirin.
Q: I suffer from migraines. How do I know I'm not having a stroke?
A: People who suffer from migraines have the same symptoms on a regular basis. Any additional or unusual symptoms - such as a sudden loss of speech or weakness in your arm - should be evaluated.
Q: The guidelines recommend that women 65 and older take a low-dose aspirin every other day to loser the risk of stroke. Should I start?
A: Not before talking to your doctor.
Q: I'm post-menopausal. Should I take estrogen therapy to prevent stroke?
A: Absolutely not. Estrogen therapy increases the risk of stroke.
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