Over 795,000 individuals will suffer a stroke this year, and more than half of them will be women. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death for men and the third leading cause for women, according to the American Stroke Association.
For years, the guidelines for minimizing stroke risk targeted a general population rather than differentiating between specific risk factors for men versus women. Recently, however, Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association Council on Stroke, published a series of guidelines designed specifically for women.
Co-author of these new female-centered guidelines, Virginia Howard, PhD, said in a statement, “men are physiologically different from women, so preventive tips cannot be one-size-fits-all.” She goes on to explain that there are several factors specific to women that increase stroke risk which often get overlooked in the more general guidelines. Most of these have to do with the female reproductive system and the risk factors developed during pregnancy.
The new guidelines state:
- Women should be screened for high blood pressure before being prescribed birth control pills, which raise blood pressure in some women.
- Women with a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy should be considered for low-dose aspirin and/or calcium supplement therapy to lower pre-eclampsia risks.
- Women who have had pre-eclampsia have twice the risk of stroke and a fourfold risk of high blood pressure later in life. Therefore, pre-eclampsia should be recognized as a risk factor well after pregnancy, and other risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and obesity in these women should be treated early.
- Pregnant women with moderately high blood pressure (150-159 mm Hg/100-109 mm Hg) may be considered for blood pressure medication, whereas expectant mothers with very high blood pressure (160/110 mm Hg or above) should be treated.
According to the American Heart Association, 28 percent of individuals have high blood pressure but don’t know it. If you suspect you are at risk or have been diagnosed, there are several ways to lower your blood pressure naturally.
Cut back on sodium. You’ll want to do more than just avoid the salt shaker. A mere 15 percent of the salt we eat comes from a sprinkle here and there; the rest is already present in heavily processed foods and takeout meals. Your best bet is to read nutrition labels carefully and aim to stay under 1,500 mg daily, which is about half of the current national average.
Bulk up on potassium rich foods. Research has found that diets high in potassium-rich foods aid in lowering blood pressure. So, fill your shopping cart with sweet potatoes, bananas, melons, prunes and raisins, but avoid potassium supplements as these can have side effects.
Lose weight. Shedding those excess pounds helps ease the workload of the heart, not to mention the joints and skeletal system, as well.
Avoid smoking at all costs. Smoking can raise blood pressure by as much as 10mm for an hour after you puff on a cigarette, and according to the American Stroke Association, exposure to second-hand smoke increases your risk of stroke by 20-30 percent.
Try essential oil therapy. In a recent study, individuals who utilized essential oil therapy, which included a blend of lavender, ylang ylang and bergamot oils, daily for four weeks experienced a drop in blood pressure.
Breathe deep. Deep breathing during yoga, tai chi or qigong helps reduce the stress hormones responsible for elevating renin levels. Renin is an enzyme responsible for spiking blood pressure. If you can’t find a class, take a few minutes daily to meditate and focus on long, slow breaths.
-The Alternative Daily