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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Women and Stroke Risk Factors

Risk factors that you cannot control include:

  • Increasing age. As women age, the risk of stroke rises and keeps rising with age.
  • Sex (Gender): More women die of stroke than men—60 percent of total stroke deaths occur in women.
  • Heredity (Family history): Women (and men) are more likely to have a stroke if their close blood relatives have had a stroke.
  • Race: African American women have a greater incidence of stroke and are more likely to die of a stroke than Caucasian women.
  • Previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke): A previous stroke or TIA is a predictor of future stroke.

Risk factors for women (and men) that can be modified, treated or controlled by lifestyle changes or medicine include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Carotid artery disease

Risk factors unique to women include:

  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a combined hormone therapy of progestin and estrogen, to relieve menopausal symptoms
  • Pregnancy: stroke risk increases during a normal pregnancy due to natural changes in the body such as increased blood pressure and stress on the heart
  • A thick waist and high triglyceride (blood fat) level: post-menopausal women with a waist size larger than 35.2 inches and a triglyceride level higher than 128 milligrams per liter may have a five-fold increased risk for stroke
  • Migraine headaches: migraine headaches with aura (visual disturbances such as flashing dots or blind spots) can increase a woman's stroke risk 3 to 6 times, and most Americans who suffer migraines are women


Center for Women's Cardiovascular Health
1-866 662-8467 (toll free)

Information line
312-MYHEART (694-3278)

Last UpdateNovember 23, 2012

Referrals &

To obtain a referral or schedule
an appointment:

Northwestern Memorial:

Northwestern Lake Forest:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Northwestern Grayslake:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Glenview Outpatient Center:

847-724-GLEN (4536)