First ever stroke guidelines released for women

Recommendations designed to decrease risk

Published On: Feb 06 2014 12:49:10 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 06 2014 04:00:00 PM EST

For the first time ever, the American Heart Association is teaming with the American Stroke Association and putting out a list of recommendations designed to decrease the risk of stroke in women.

Dr. Dolora Wisco, who did not help with the guidelines but treats stroke patients at Cleveland Clinic, says the new guidelines were developed for different stages of a woman's life.

"You have the childbearing years, perimenopausal, post-menopausal, and that just modifies those already traditional risk-factors," explained Wisco.

The guidelines include a list of risk factors influenced by pregnancy, birth control pills, migraine headaches with aura and other factors, like preclampsia. Women who have preclampsia have twice the risk of stroke and a four-fold risk of high blood pressure later in life.

The guidelines recommend women with a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy be considered for low-dose aspirin and/or calcium supplement therapy to lower their preclampsia risk.

Women should also be screened for high blood pressure before taking birth control pills because the combination raises stroke risks. And women who have migraine with aura should stop smoking to avoid higher stroke risk.

Researchers say the guidelines are geared to primary care providers, including OB/GYNs. Wisco says women need to pay close attention to this newest list of risk factors and weigh them against the ones they may already have.

"If you have high blood pressure, you know you have diabetes, you have cholesterol, you're smoking- those are major risk factors that you need to be paying attention to if you're a female," said Wisco.

The new guidelines can be found in the American Heart Association Journal Stroke.