Friday, May 10, 2019

Stoke And Heart Disease: Are You At Risk?

     My brother was only 53 when he suffered a massive stroke just days after surgery on his shoulder. Fortunately, he survived but he lost a portion of his memory in the process. His condition got me thinking about my own cardiovascular health, so I did a little research and was surprised to learn that more women die from stroke than men, with 60% of all stroke deaths occurring in women. I also discovered that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the US, on average striking one in four females.

     There are several reasons for these startling statistics. Women are at a higher risk during certain stages of life, particularly during pregnancy if their blood pressure elevates, or if diabetes and obesity are a factor. Black/African American women are at an even higher risk if sickle cell anemia is detected during pregnancy.

     Risk factors for heart disease and stroke also increase in females as they age. It's important to note that women experience different symptoms than men during a heart attack. Their pain is not only in the chest but can also be in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen, and back. Women have reported sharp pain in the stomach, accompanied by nausea, fatigue and profuse sweating at the onset of a heart attack.

     If healthy behaviors are started early in life such as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly,   the risk of heart disease and stroke is significantly lower. But it's never too late to start practicing heart-healthy behaviors.

     To prevent a cardiovascular event, women should refrain from smoking, monitor their cholesterol levels regularly, reduce sodium in their diet, find alternative ways to handle stress and get plenty of exercise. This heart-healthy behavior will also help to decrease the chances of diabetes and obesity.

     Another preventative measure would be to schedule regular checkups with your physician and to get screening tests for any potential heart disease or stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, which is especially important if you have a family history of these risk factors.

     Women who have already suffered from a cardiovascular event can decrease the risks of future heart attacks and strokes by measuring their blood pressure regularly at home, participating in cardiac rehabilitation or stroke recovery, and as always, taking all medications as directed.

     After witnessing my brother's difficult recovery from his stroke, I knew that it was time to take my own health seriously by following up with preventative measures that will lead to a heart-healthy life.

*For more information, visit:

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Fact Sheet  

Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet


Pregnancy and Stroke: Are You at Risk? (CDC Feature Article): 

Brooke Bergfeld's Stroke Survivor Story: 


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