What increases a woman's risk?
Common risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise, and family history. Women, in particular, are at risk if they have:
Menopause. A woman's risk of heart disease and stroke is higher after menopause. This higher chance is not completely understood. But cholesterol, high blood pressure, and fat around the abdomen—all things that raise the risk for heart disease and stroke—also increase around this time.
Hormone therapy (HT). Because menopause and hormones are linked to the health of your blood vessels, you and your doctor will discuss your health and your risk of heart disease and stroke to make sure hormone therapy is safe for you.
Birth control pills. Using birth control pills might increase your risk if you smoke and are older than 35 or if you have a family history of atherosclerosis or blood-clotting disorders. Healthy, young, nonsmoking women probably do not increase their risk of heart disease and stroke when they take low-dose birth control pills.
Pregnancy-related problems. Problems during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke later in life. Tell your doctor about any problems you had during pregnancy.
Migraine headaches. Migraine headaches, especially migraines with aura, have been linked with stroke in women younger than 55.