What are the risk factors for stroke in women?

Risk factors for stroke can be different for women than men; blood clotting issues and migraines are two that tend to be unique. In this video, I will share risk factors for stroke that are more prominent in women. 
There are some risk factors for stroke that pertain to both men and women. They include:
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol levels
  • diabetes
  • circulation problems
  • tobacco use
  • alcohol use
  • physical inactivity
  • being overweight or obese
Some risk factors only relate to women. These include:
  • pregnancy complications (including preeclampsia)
  • use of birth control pills
  • hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Some risk factors are more likely to affect women because they have a higher prevalence among women. These include:
  • migraines with visual disturbances
  • atrial fibrillation after age 75
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Not every stroke victim has the classic risk factors. Here are some less common risk factors for strokes that women, particularly young women in their 20s and 30s, need to know:

  • Migraines: Migraine headaches, which are more common in women then in men, are vascular headaches that cause blood vessels to spasm. These spasms are believed to increase the risk of strokes since they can cause blood flow loss to the brain and create clotting.
  • The pill: Although it occurs in a relatively small percentage of women, taking the birth control pill can cause blood clots related to strokes. This does not mean that if you’re taking the pill you need to go off of it. Rather, you need to be extra aware of this risk factor, especially if you have other risk factors such as high blood pressure or a family history. Always discuss your health background in detail with your doctor to determine if you should be on the pill.
  • Pregnancy and giving birth: During pregnancy and birth, a woman experiences major hormonal changes and blood pressure typically rises. Studies show that during the postpartum period, especially within the first six weeks after delivery, a woman’s risk of having a stroke is 2.5 times higher than usual. 
  • One glass of soda or sweetened juice per day: A new study showed that as little as one soda or sugary juice drink a day increases the risk of stroke in women by 83%, while there was no correlation in men. According to a different study, diet soda also increases a woman’s risk. 
  • Sudden neck movement: The neck houses major arteries -- carotid and vertebral -- that transport blood to the brain. Sudden movements that cause you to flex or extend the neck too far can break a blood vessel or cause a blood clot. While this is rare, you should still be aware and avoid sudden movements of the neck that can occur, say, while you’re working out or doing yoga.

Continue Learning about Stroke Risk Factors

Stroke Risk Factors

Stroke Risk Factors

Your risk level for stroke can vary based on your genes and lifestyle; risk factors can also differ between men and women. While you can't control your age, family history, race and gender, it's important to know your stroke risk. ...

Men are at a higher risk for stroke, but women account for more deaths from it. Common risk factors for men and women that can be controlled or treated include high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, diet, physical activity and heart disease. Less common risk factors affecting women include migraines, taking the pill, pregnancy and childbirth complications and use of hormone replacement therapy. Learn more about stroke risk factors with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.