This year, nearly half a million women will have a stroke. The June 2013 Harvard Women's Health Watch offers eight steps women can take to limit the chances a stroke will strike.
Women can't do anything about two leading contributors to stroke—age and family history. But there are many other stroke risk factors they can control. Becoming aware of them is the first step. "Knowledge is power," says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. "If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk."
Stroke-reducing steps include:
Lower blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure doubles or even quadruples stroke risk. Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, can go a long way to preventing stroke.
Lose weight. Obesity and the complications linked to it, including high blood pressure and diabetes, raise the odds of having a stroke. For people who are overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can lower stroke risk.
Exercise more. Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer. One study in the journal Stroke found that women who walked three hours a week were less likely to have a stroke than women who didn't walk.
Take a baby aspirin. The landmark Women's Health Initiative study found that women over age 65 who took a daily baby aspirin lowered their stroke risk. Aspirin helps by preventing blood clots from forming. However, it's important for anyone considering daily aspirin use to talk with a doctor first.
Read the full-length article: "8 things you can do to prevent a stroke"