New Stroke Guidelines Protect Women, Worry Me

>>strokeTry to guess what the following things have in common: Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, cancer, depression, and heart disease.

Aside from being things that keep me up at night worrying, all five are conditions that women suffer from at much higher rates than men. In fact, every minute of every day a woman dies from heart disease, and one out of three women will die of stroke, heart attack, or other problems of the circulatory system.

While many people—myself included—think of stroke and heart disease as a concern for later in life, new guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association suggest women of all ages should be frequently screened for risk factors of these conditions.

I lost my grandmother to heart disease at the relatively young age of 65, but I would never have considered myself at risk in my mid-30s. According to the new guidelines, it’s not just my family history for heart disease that should have me on alert. Diagnosis of migraines, moderate-to-high blood pressure during pregnancies, and long-time use of birth control are now considered risk factors.

I admit to dreading these new guidelines because they mean I have to worry about one more thing. But the reality is that this focus on women’s health is great news. So often major medical conditions don’t get spotlighted because they are considered “women’s problems.” Most people picture heart disease as an old man’s ailment. I have no doubt that these new guidelines will save lives by reminding younger women to talk to our doctors about our risk.

The Heart Association advises women who experience any of the following symptoms to talk to their doctors and possibly seek treatment:

  • Moderately high blood pressure during pregnancy

  • High blood pressure prior to pregnancy

  • A diagnosis of pre-eclampsia or eclampsia

  • Migraine headache with aura

  • A history of smoking

Additionally, women should get screened for blood pressure problems prior to going on birth control, due to the higher risk of blood clot while on that medication. Women who smoke and/or have higher blood pressure should possibly not take birth control or other hormone-based therapies.

So now I have a new thing to bring up with my doctor (and to add to my list of late-night worries). How will this news change your life? Will you schedule a special appointment to discuss the new guidelines or bring it up at your next annual?




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