New Guidelines Urge Women To Monitor Stroke Risk Carefully

Don't have enough to worry about when it comes to your health as a woman? Great news; science says you could face higher risks for strokes than men now too.

OK, patriarchy, this is just getting silly.

According to a new set of guidelines released on Thursday, we're all just totally screwed women need to monitor stroke risks more than men. As The Washington Postpoints out, stroke is a leading cause of death for women:

Women are also more likely to have risk factors associated with stroke, such as migraines, depression, diabetes and the abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. The guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association were the first such recommendations aimed at preventing strokes in women. Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death for all Americans and a leading cause of disability. It's the third-leading cause of death for women, after heart disease and cancer.

Stroke symptoms, which include numbness in the arm, drooping face and strained speech, may be harder to spot in women than men. Women have "unique risks" for stroke due to things like pregnancy complications, birth control and hormone use.

"We're talking about being aware of blood pressure before you ever take birth-control medication, being aware of blood pressure before you ever get pregnant," said Cheryl Bushnell, associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Other recommendations are more specific :

●Women should be screened for high blood pressure before taking birth-control pills, because the combination raises stroke risks.

●Women with a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy should be considered for low-dose aspirin or calcium supplement therapy, or both, to lower preeclampsia risk.

●Women who have preeclampsia have twice the risk of stroke and a fourfold risk of high blood pressure later in life. Therefore, preeclampsia should be recognized as a risk factor well after pregnancy. Preeclampsia and eclampsia are blood-pressure disorders during pregnancy that cause major complications, including stroke during or after delivery, premature birth and risk for stroke well after childbearing, in some cases as long as 40 years later. Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and high protein levels in the urine, and when seizure also occurs, it is called eclampsia, according to the American Heart Association.

Also, it's recommended that women with certain types of migraines quit smoking to reduce their risks of stroke as well. Some recommendations concerning pregnant women are also raising questions:

One recommendation that could be controversial is treating pregnant women with moderately high blood pressure (150 to 159 over 100 to 109 millimeters of mercury) with blood pressure medication. That goes against a recommendation by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Bushnell said.

"We are going out on a limb," she said. "We don't want women to develop severe blood pressure, and that has to be weighed with risks for the mom and the baby."

Image via Shutterstock.