Men are 33-40% likelier to experience a stroke than women. However, while it’s true that men have more strokes, when a woman experiences a cerebrovascular accident, the results tend to be more severe. The bad news is that anyone can suffer a stroke. The good news is that most ischemic and hemorrhagic cerebral events can be prevented.
Stress, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle are three contributors to stroke in women. Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, slightly increases a woman’s chance of suffering a stroke. If you want to lessen your personal risk, you can. Here are six things to start (or stop) doing today:
- Monitor your blood pressure
- Lose excess weight
- Quit smoking
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Get more exercise
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a killer. Women with abnormally high blood pressure are at much higher risk of stroke than women who maintain the optimum level of 120/80. You may be able to lower your blood pressure naturally if you reduce your salt intake, eat more potassium-rich fruits and veggies, exercise more and quit smoking tobacco.
Obesity contributes to a woman’s risk of stroke. Shed ten of those extra pounds and lower your personal risk factor in a significant way. Limit your caloric intake and move around for at least thirty minutes every day, and you will be well on your way to a healthier body and brain. Those thirty minutes of daily exercise doesn’t have to be intense to be effective. Studies show that moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cerebrovascular accident.
If you consume more than two servings of alcohol per day, try taking it back a notch. You don’t have to stop enjoying wine with dinner. In fact, it has been proven that a glass or two of red wine may improve a woman’s chances of avoiding a stroke. If a glass of wine helps you relax, that can only be a good thing. Stress can be as dangerous as all other risk factors combined. Take a yoga class, learn to meditate or enjoy a therapeutic massage. Eat right, move more, don’t smoke and learn to relax.
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National Stroke Association; Stroke Prevention Guidelines; Stroke.org; accessed February 24, 2014
Mary Ellen Ellis; George Krucik, MD, MBA; Cerebrovascular Accident; Healthline.com; accessed February 24, 2014
Peter Appelros, MD, PhD, Birgitta Stegmayr, PhD, Andreas Terént, MD, PhD; Sex Differences in Stroke Epidemiology: A Systematic Review; AHAjournals.org; accessed February 24, 2014
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health; Hormone Replacement Therapy and Stroke; NIH.org; accessed February 24, 2014