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Stroke Guidelines for Women

Stroke Guidelines for Women

Both men and women share many of the same high-risk predictors for stroke, such as smoking, family history, and physical inactivity. However, some risk factors are either exclusive to women or affect women disproportionately. The American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) recently convened a panel of experts in neurology, obstetrics, cardiology, epidemiology, and internal medicine to review and assess the literature on stroke risk in adults. This resulted in the publishing of the first gender-specific AHA/ASA guidelines for stroke prevention in women. “The development of these guidelines is important because women differ from men in many ways with regard to stroke,” explains Cheryl B. Bushnell, MD, who chaired the AHA/ASA writing group that developed the document. Several characteristics can influence stroke risk and impact outcomes, including genetic differences in immunity, coagulation, hormonal factors, reproductive factors (eg, pregnancy and childbirth), and social factors. “Many of the unique risk factors for women present at younger ages due to things like oral contraceptive use and pregnancy complications,” Dr. Bushnell explains. “Recognition of stroke risk and identification of prevention strategies could start early in at-risk women.” Highlighting Key Recommendations Based on available evidence, the AHA/ASA guidelines categorized risk factors by those that were sex-specific, more prevalent in women, or similar between women and men (Table 1). Dr. Bushnell says it is critical to recognize that women with a history of hypertension or preeclampsia during pregnancy are at risk for stroke and hypertension later in life. “Before this guideline emerged, few providers and women knew about this risk,” she says. “The evidence for this relationship is strong, and multiple meta-analyses have...
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