Empowering Women’s Health: Understanding Women’s Stroke Risks at Every Stage of Life

A woman hugs her mother who is sitting and smiling.

As we usher in Women’s Health Week, it’s important to prioritize women’s well-being and empowerment. According to the CDC, this annual observance is typically held the week starting on Mother’s Day and serves as a reminder of the unique health challenges women face and the importance of proactive measures in promoting their physical, mental and emotional health.

This year, it’s extremely important to highlight stroke awareness. Strokes, often seen as a health concern primarily affecting older adults, can strike women at different stages of their lives due to a variety of factors. Understanding these risks is paramount to empowering women to take proactive steps in safeguarding their health.

There are three key periods in women’s lives that put them at risk for heart conditions and strokes:

The Reproductive Years

The journey of womanhood begins with the reproductive years, a phase marked by significant hormonal fluctuations due to menstruation, contraception, and pregnancy. While estrogen, a hormone primarily associated with female reproductive health, offers some protective benefits for heart and brain health, its variations during this period can pose risks for strokes. Contraceptive methods, especially those containing estrogen, may slightly increase the risk of blood clots, which can lead to stroke, particularly in women who smoke or have other risk factors. Similarly, pregnancy can also raise the risk of stroke, especially in women with conditions like gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.

Midlife and Menopause

Transitioning into midlife and menopause brings its own set of challenges. Estrogen levels decline during menopause, which can affect blood vessel health and increase the risk of cardiovascular issues, including stroke. This phase often coincides with lifestyle changes, such as decreased physical activity and weight gain, which further add to the risk of stroke. 


During the post-menopause phase, women face the absence of protective factors associated with estrogen, placing them at a much higher risk for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Also, being exposed to risks in the earlier phases of life, such as having an early or late first period, having complications in pregnancy, or having an early menopause, can have a negative impact when combined with the aging process. This puts post-menopausal women in a tough spot later in life. 

Additionally, conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), inflammatory disorders, autoimmune diseases, breast cancer treatments, and chronic kidney disease can further intensify these risks for stroke at any life stage. 

What Are The Next Steps?

Women’s Health Week is meant to encourage women to make their health a number one priority, so being more transparent with yourself is crucial for preventing strokes and other heart conditions as women transition through these stages of life. 

Here are some heart-healthy habits that you can incorporate into your daily routine as you celebrate Women’s Health Week:

  • Get a “well-woman exam” – The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends getting a yearly well-woman exam that focuses specifically on performing physical exams, documenting health habits and history, discussing health goals, and going through screening tests for preventing diseases and other health issues.
  • Regular exercise – Physical inactivity can increase your risk of having a stroke so be sure to incorporate exercise into your regular routine. 
  • Eat a balanced diet – Prioritize eating anti-inflammatory foods such as dark, leafy greens, whole grains, berries and salmon, and avoid eating high-cholesterol, high-sodium foods.
  • Monitor your blood pressure – Checking your blood pressure regularly and ensuring your levels are normal can help prevent an unexpected stroke or heart problem.
  • Manage stress – Your mental health is essential for preventing strokes and heart issues. Be mindful of your mental health and learn how to cope with stress.


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