Could estrogen be a protector from stroke pre-menopause? It could be, considering how this condition affects women, especially after menopause.

Stroke is one of the top 5 leading causes of death and a significant cause of disability. Did you know that women account for 60% of all stroke events?

In the 10 years after menopause, a woman’s risk for stroke roughly doubles. 

We’re digging into the topic today… so let’s definitely start at the beginning with some details about symptoms, types, and yes, the definition of stroke.

First off, what is a stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced, according to the Mayo Clinic. Brain cells can begin to die off in minutes, resulting in brain damage. It’s the blood, after all, that carries the critical oxygen and other nutrients for proper brain feeding and function.

Symptoms of stroke

A few symptoms are quite noticeable and will signal a stroke, others are more subtle. The key is to respond as quickly as possible if you suspect a stroke is happening in order to prevent or minimize brain damage. Here are the symptoms of stroke

  • Trouble speaking or understanding what others are saying: Slurred words, confusion while speaking are common. You may also have trouble processing or comprehending what others are saying to you.
  • Paralysis, numbness, or weakness in the face, arm, or leg: This symptom often affects one side of the body. If you suspect a stroke is happening, try raising both arms up over your head. If one arm begins to fall, it could signal stroke. Similarly, if you try to smile, one side of your mouth may droop. These are two things that will help assess whether or not a stroke may be happening (more are below)
  • Seeing double, blurred vision, or blackened vision: Problems with your vision may occur during stroke in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden severe headache, altered consciousness, or dizziness: The headache may occur with or without vomiting.
  • Trouble walking or moving: Loss of coordination and/or balance may occur during a stroke.

One of the baffling things about strokes is that it can be difficult to assess when one is happening if symptoms aren’t either of the first two in the above-bulleted list.

A woman’s nutritional needs change during menopause. That’s why we’ve formulated Vitality supplement packs. Learn more and take control of your menopause.

Thinking and acting F.A.S.T. about stroke

Timing is key and your awareness and ability to think and act fast can may a significant difference. This is also from the Mayo Clinic and may help you… or someone close to you.

  • Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to rise?
  • Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 or emergency medical help immediately.

Types of stroke

We checked in with the American Stroke Association for more details on the different types of strokes that can occur. 

  • Ischemic: This type is the most common and is due to a clot that blocks or cuts off the blood supply in the brain. 
  • Hemorrhagic: Yes, you guessed it, bleeding into the brain. This type occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures.
  • TIA: Transient Ischemic Attack  — AKA a "mini-stroke" — is caused by a serious but temporary clot.
  • Cryptogenic: In some instances, even with testing, the cause of a stroke may still be unknown and categorized as this type of stroke.
  • Brain Stem: When a stroke happens in the brain stem, it can actually affect both sides of the body and could leave a person in what’s known as a “locked” state, meaning the person is generally unable to speak or to move below the neck.

We also found this type: Silent stroke

Silent stroke is many times undetectable during its occurrence and can be found after with an MRI or CT scan. 

Science about women, menopause, and stroke

Why does the risk for stroke increase after menopause? It’s thought that additional cardiovascular risk factors develop after menopause. Actually, multiple risk factors for stroke develop with the onset of menopause: abdominal weight gain, an increase in triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol, a decrease in HDL (healthy) cholesterol, increased fasting glucose and other measures of insulin resistance, increased BMI, and increased blood pressure.

A study also showed that women who experienced early-onset menopause (age 42 and younger) may be twice as likely to suffer from a stroke as women who experience menopause at age 54 or over at menopause. More studies and more evidence are needed here, but the number presented is significant.

What about HRT and stroke risk?

This study proved interesting, but yet inconclusive when it comes to how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may decrease the risk of stroke in human women

“Animal studies demonstrate that postmenopausal HRT has beneficial effects on stroke, but the outcomes are not consistent in human studies due to multifactorial mechanisms.” 

So, essentially, there’s a disconnect when it comes to humans, and more study is needed on this topic as well.

Best things to do

  • Keep improving your health where you can: Exercise, good nutrition, and hydration all have an impact on the quality of blood coursing through your systems and your brain. 
  • Gather details, as you are able, of your family history around stroke, hypertension, diabetes, kidney, heart disease, as well as other conditions: This is information that can be helpful and relevant, not to mention interesting, as you continue to live and thrive.
  • Set aside the smokes: Truly, smoking increases risks for many conditions, including stroke.
  • Stay connected with your doctor: Your relationship with your doctor can be fruitful, supportive, and empowering. Connect with your doctor, monitor your experience, and ask about what’s going on in your body as you navigate your menopause journey.

And right now is the best time to begin.

What are your thoughts on the topic of stroke before and after menopause? Join this and all of the other threads of conversation in the Gennev Community Forum. You are definitely in good company there.