HEALTH

Stroke specialists' group issues new guidelines for women

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(WJLA) - The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have issued the first guidelines focusing specifically on stroke risk and prevention for women. Stroke is the third leading cause of death of women and every year, 55,000 more women than men have a stroke.

Photo: The Associated Press

Dr. Alex Dromerick, a stroke neurologist with MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital and Georgetown University, says experts from various disciplines worked together on the new guidelines to highlight risks specific to women.

“Issues related to hormones, pregnancy, response to various meds that are different from men,” says Dr. Dromerick.

The guidelines recommend a woman be checked for high blood pressure before she starts birth control. Women with a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy should be considered for low-dose aspirin to reduce their risk of preeclampsia. All women over the age of 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation, which quadruples the risk for stroke.

Dr. Dromerick says these guidelines are an important wake-up call for women.

“Yes, they can have a stroke. Yes, they need to worry about their blood pressure and cholesterol and get checked on a regular basis,” says Dr. Dromerick.

He advises women to stop smoking, to exercise, and to know their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Experts recommend a female-specific score should be implemented in evaluating stroke risk.

An easy way to remember warning signs for a stroke is Act F.A.S.T.: 

Face - does the person's mouth droop on one side when she smiles? 
Arms - can the person raise both arms up or does one fall down?
Slured speech 
Time - it's crutial to act quickly

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