Are Women More at Risk Than Men?
Women and Stroke Risk FactorsThere are two types of risk factors for stroke: those you can do something about and those over which you have no control.
Stroke risk factors that cannot be changed for both men and women include:
- Age (risk for a stroke tends to increase with age)
- Race/ethnicity (African Americans have a higher risk for stroke than other ethnic groups)
- Family history of stroke
- Prior history of a stroke, TIA, or heart attack.
Some of the most important treatable or controllable risk factors for stroke are:
- High blood pressure, known medically as hypertension
- High cholesterol, known medically as hypercholesterolemia
- Atrial fibrillation
- Certain heart diseases
- Carotid artery disease
- Sleep apnea.
Other factors that can increase the risk for these conditions above include:
- Being overweight (Click BMI Calculator to learn about what might be a healthy weight for you.)
- Being physically inactive
- Poor diet.
Some risk factors for stroke also apply only to women. These risk factors may include:
These risk factors are tied to hormonal fluctuations and changes that affect a woman in different stages of life.
Research in the past few decades has shown that high-dose oral contraceptives, the kind used in the 1960s and 1970s, can increase the risk of stroke in women. Fortunately, oral contraceptives with high doses of estrogen are no longer used and have been replaced with safer and more effective oral contraceptives with lower doses of estrogen. Some studies have shown the newer low-dose oral contraceptives may not significantly increase the risk of stroke in women.