HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

April 2014

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UPDATE

First Female Stroke

Guidelines Released

In our story “New Hope for Stroke Survivors” (February), we learned that stroke deaths have declined 30% over the past 30 years, a drop credited to fewer people smoking and better treatment of hypertension. But while that achievement is something to celebrate, there is some sobering news, too: Women are still dying of stroke at greater rates than men. Women also suffer more strokes—60% of the yearly total, according to the American Stroke Association.

This explains why the ASA, in conjunction with the American Heart Association, has published the first stroke guidelines written specifically with women in mind. “Men are physiologically different from women, so preventive tips cannot be one-size-fits-all,” says coauthor Virginia Howard, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The guidelines note that in addition to gender-specific risk factors like pregnancy and disorders associated with it (such as pre-eclampsia), some risk factors are more critical in women including stress, depression, atrial fibrillation, diabetes and migraine with aura. What’s more, hypertension is more strongly linked to stroke in women.

As a result, the following actions are recommended:

• A woman’s blood pressure should be checked before she takes birth control pills.

• Calcium and/or low-dose aspirin therapy should be considered for women with hypertension before pregnancy to reduce pre-eclampsia risk; women who suffer from this condition should have stroke risk factors such as obesity treated early.

• Women who have migraines with aura should stop smoking.

• Women older than 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation.

• Pregnant women with severe high blood pressure (160/110 mmHg or above) should be treated; those with moderately high pressure (150-159/100-109) should consider treatment.

 

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Vitamin D Deficiency

Linked to Inflammation

Not having enough vitamin D in your system may leave you prone to chronic inflammation— especially as you move into your senior years.

Researchers at Ireland’s University of Ulster did bloodwork on 957 volunteers, all of whom were at least 60 years old. Besides testing for vitamin D levels, the study team also measured markers of inflammation including C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6, IL-10 and TNF-alpha.

Participants who were deficient in vitamin D were more likely to show high levels of inflammatory markers. Chronic, low-level inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease and a number of other disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

“These finding suggest that an adequate vitamin D status may be required for optimal immune function, particularly within the older adult population,” the study team wrote in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. “This study is the first to find a connection between vitamin D levels and inflammation in a large sample of older individuals.”

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