Women Must Think FAST To Reduce Unique Stroke Risks

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The differences between men and women can present some unique health risks, especially when it comes to women and their risk for stroke.

Dr. Frisco Morse, DO, medical director of Stormont-Vail's Stroke Program, says 85 percent of strokes are related to a blood clot, where it breaks off, travels to the brain and lodges in an artery to the brain. Any brain tissue beyond the clot, he says, is then deprived of oxygen that's in the blood and is at risk of dying if blood flow is not restored.

The risk of stroke increases with age, and women tend to live longer than men. Morse says age also brings a higher incidence of another risk factor for stroke, a disruption of the heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation.

Morse says women also face unique hormone issues. Hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives can increase stroke risk, especially when combined with smoking. Morse says higher levels of certain hormones can make the blood clot more easily. He says that does not mean women should never be on HRT, but women should weigh the risks and benefits with their doctor, and not begin HRT under the old theory that it would prevent stroke.

Both genders can lower stroke risk by controlling weight, blood pressure and cholesterol and quitting smoking. Plus, everyone should know to think "FAST," the acronym to recognize the signs of a stroke. If you notice a Facial droop, if Arms are extended and one drops, if Speech is slurred, then it's Time to call 911 to get the fastest possible help.

Quick treatment means a better chance you'll be able to receive a clot-busting medication known as TPA. Angie Rodecap, RN, BSN, nurse manager for Stormont's Stroke Program, says every 15 minutes sooner TPA is given increases a patient's amount of independence after stroke and decreases chances of disability. However, TPA can only be given within a certain timeframe of a stroke's onset. Rodecap says stroke is the number one cause of disability in the U.S. and the fourth-leading cause of death.

Stormont-Vail recently earned Gold Plus and Target Honor Roll recognition from the American Heart and American Stroke Association. Rodecap says the awards are given for meeting certain standards in getting TPA to patients, educating them on prevention and setting out treatment plans for once they're released from the hospital.