Why Your Risk is Different Than His

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Why Your Risk is Different Than HisMen and women are made differently—chemically, biologically, and physically—so why do health guidelines not differentiate between males and females? That’s about to change, as the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association Council have developed the first guidelines for the prevention of stroke for women, published in the journal Stroke.

“Men are physiologically different from women, so preventive tips cannot be one-size-fits-all,” said Virginia Howard, co-author of the new Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Women. “There are many considerations about stroke that might be different for women: Reproductive factors and risk factors more common or stronger in women, like diabetes and atrial fibrillation, might get lost in a general guidelines document.”

Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death for all Americans, with 60% of strokes occurring in women. As Howard noted, this could be due to the many differences between men and women, and because the current guidelines are one-gender-fits-all, they do not encourage women to understand their own biological risks for stroke and heart disease. The new guidelines emphasize certain risk factors apparent in women that make them more susceptible to stroke:

  •  Birth control pills can raise women’s blood pressure, which makes it vital women get screened for blood pressure before going on the pill. High blood pressure increases your risk for stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • Women with pre-eclampsia have double the risk of stroke, and are four times more likely to suffer from high blood pressure later on in life.

Many things that women experience during pregnancy can increase the risk for stroke, and if these guidelines are taken seriously, they can help prevent this deadly disease.

“First stroke guidelines for women created,” ScienceDaily web site, February 7, 2104; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140207083621.htm, last accessed February 10, 2014.