Stroke in women: special risk factors of the female sex

Particular risk factors: Increased risk of stroke in women

In Germany, more than a quarter of a million people suffer a stroke. Over half of those affected are women, also because they have additional risks of a brain attack. This is pointed out by experts on the occasion of International Women's Day.

One of the most common causes of death

Every year around 270,000 people in Germany suffer a stroke. The so-called brain infarction is one of the most common causes of death in this country. According to experts, many deaths would be avoidable if stroke symptoms were recognized quickly and those affected were given immediate care. Prevention is at least as important as rapid therapy. Here you should know that women have special risk factors for a stroke that need to be minimized.

Signs of a stroke

If a leg feels paralyzed, speech becomes indistinct and a corner of the mouth hangs down, speed is required - because these can be signs of a stroke. 55 percent of those affected are women.

The German Stroke Society (DSG) draws attention to this in the run-up to International Women's Day, which takes place on Thursday, March 8th.

According to the experts, there may be special risk factors in women. These are, for example, the birth control pill or the pregnancy disease preeclampsia. Women with diabetes are particularly at risk.

DSG experts therefore recommend that all women check their risk factors and take specific measures to prevent them.

Increased risk during pregnancy

The hormones play a crucial role in women as a stroke risk factor. For example, the risk of a stroke during pregnancy is increased per se - around 30 out of 100,000 women are affected.

The risk is particularly high if there are typical risk factors for a stroke during pregnancy. "Women who want to have children who are overweight and have high blood pressure should seek advice from their doctor," says Professor Dr. med. Wolf-Rüdiger Schäbitz, press spokesman for the DSG, in a communication published by the "Informationsdienst Wissenschaft" (idw).

"Sometimes it can make sense to take medication even before pregnancy to prevent pregnancy poisoning - so-called pre-eclampsia."

The risk of stroke is even higher in women who have had preeclampsia than those with the typical risk factors. The main signs of preeclampsia are high blood pressure, increased protein excretion in the urine and water retention.

Birth control pills and migraines increase the risk

The risk of stroke in young women can also be increased if they take the contraceptive pill.

"The risk has decreased with the newer preparations that contain fewer estrogens, but it still remains increased," explained Professor Dr. Armin Grau, 1st Chairman of the DSG.

This risk increases significantly with additional risk factors such as obesity, fat metabolism disorders and smoking. Women more often than men have migraines with accompanying symptoms, a so-called migraine with aura; this is also a risk factor for strokes.

"If women suffer from migraines with aura and take the pill, they have a seven times higher risk of stroke and if they still smoke, the risk increases by a factor of ten," explains Grau.

The expert advises women who suffer from migraines with aura not to take birth control pills and never to smoke. "It is of course generally advisable not to use the handle to the cigarette," says Grau.

A family history of stroke preoccupation can be dangerous, especially when combined with the hormonal preparation. "Those affected should speak to their gynecologist about alternative methods of contraception," says Grau.

Hormones play a big role

In addition to hormones, the classic risk factors for stroke such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, atrial fibrillation, sedentary lifestyle and high blood pressure also play a major role in women.

The latter is one of the most common causes of stroke in middle-aged women. Professor Schäbitz advises those affected:

“It is advisable to have high blood pressure checked at least twice a year. If it is chronically elevated and does not improve through a change in lifestyle - for example through weight loss and regular exercise - blood pressure lowering medication should be taken. "

In addition, reducing stress is a proven strategy to prevent a brain attack.

After menopause, there is another significant risk factor in some women - atrial fibrillation. They suffer from arrhythmia much more often than men.

The expert recommends women to have atrial fibrillation treated consistently. This could effectively reduce the risk of stroke by up to 70 percent.

Women with diabetes

Women with diabetes are a particular risk group: their risk of developing an illness is increased by 27 percent compared to men with diabetes, and the severity of the stroke is significantly more pronounced among women with diabetes.

People with diabetes often suffer from risk factors that contribute to the development of a stroke - such as belly fat, high blood pressure, and disorders in carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

These factors together drive arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), in which the arteries narrow and become blocked. In addition to high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis is the main cause of strokes.

"It is important to recognize and treat diabetes early on, as this is the only way to prevent complications - such as stroke - as effectively as possible," said Schäbitz. Good prevention can make a big difference, especially for special risk groups. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Stroke Prevention - Dr. Reena Patel. UCLA Health Cardiology (January 2022).