Stroke Risk Factors

Women and Stroke Risk Factors

Stroke Risk Factors

Most strokes are preventable and their adverse impact can be minimized by prompt attention and proper treatment. Knowing the risk factors for stroke can help with prevention.

Risk factors that cannot be controlled

  • Increasing age: As women age, the risk of stroke rises and keeps rising with age.
  • Gender: More women die of stroke than men—60 percent of total stroke deaths occur in women.
  • Family history: Women (and men) are more likely to have a stroke if their close blood relatives have had a stroke.
  • Race: African-American women have a greater incidence of stroke and are more likely to die of a stroke than Caucasian women.
  • Previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke): A previous stroke or TIA is a predictor of future stroke. 

Risk factors that can be controlled 

The following risk factors can be treated or modified by lifestyle changes or medicine. 

Risk factors unique to women

  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): HRT is a combined hormone therapy of progestin and estrogen, to relieve menopausal symptoms.
  • Pregnancy: Stroke risk increases during a normal pregnancy due to natural changes in the body such as increased blood pressure and stress on the heart.
  • Waist size and high triglyceride (blood fat) level: Post-menopausal women with a waist size larger than 35.2 inches and a triglyceride level higher than 128 milligrams per liter may have a five-fold increased risk for stroke.
  • Migraine headaches: Migraine headaches with aura (visual disturbances such as flashing dots or blind spots) can increase a woman's stroke risk 3 to 6 times, and most Americans who suffer from migraines are women.