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Study: Women's Stroke Risk is Almost Triple Men's

March 1, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. - Women ages 35 to 64 had lower blood pressure and better overall blood chemistry than men of the same age, but a new study found the women almost three times more likely to have a stroke. The difference? The women in the study had more abdominal fat than the men.

The findings don't surprise Dr. Bob Djergaian, who helps rehabilitate stroke victims. He is seeing more and younger women with heart problems. He believes stress might also be a factor, as many women juggle jobs and caregiving at midlife, and tend to put themselves last.

The doctor says economic stresses don't help, either.

"Unfortunately, we're seeing too many people who can't afford health care, can't afford medication, and they're not doing anything about it from that perspective. There's the issue of fast foods being cheaper and being less healthy."

Dr. Djergaian's stroke patients tell him they never thought it could happen to them, although they knew they weren't eating right or getting enough exercise. He advises patients to be mindful of all of the risk factors, not just weight and excercise.

"Especially people who have a family history of stroke and heart disease, looking at their diet. Stop smoking, if they're smoking. Make sure their diabetes is under control, if they have it."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than one woman in five in Virginia is either overweight or obese. Until that changes, Dr. Djergaian predicts, the numbers of strokes and heart attacks will continue to climb.

The study cited is from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA