Stroke in women: risk and prevention throughout the lifespan.
Women have a one in five chance of having a stroke during their lifetime. Although the majority of strokes occur in the oldest age groups, younger women have unique risks during their childbearing years because of pregnancy, preeclampsia, and the use of oral contraceptives. Fortunately, the absolute risk of stroke in these young women is low, but a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy or postpartum may be an indication of risk that carries over into later years after childbearing. In addition, menopause represents a risk because of the potential for increasing blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and decreasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Early identification of stroke risk in women will help to minimize the effect of the stroke epidemic in older women.