Stroke claiming more women’s lives than breast cancer

Women are being urged to be extra vigilant when it comes to stroke warning signs.

New statistics have revealed that there were 85 stroke related deaths in Mayo in 2013 and 49 of those deaths were women, meaning 36 per cent more women are dying from stroke than men.

National Stroke Week, promoted by the Irish Heart Foundation, started on Monday and continues until March 29.

To mark the week, Irish Heart Foundation head of advocacy, Chris Macey, said the charity is asking women to know the warning signs of a stroke.

“The higher death rate from stroke among women is not widely known,” he said. “The fact is that stroke kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer in Ireland and we are particularly asking women to be aware of the FAST warning signs during this year’s National Stroke Week.”

The FAST acronym stands for Face (has your face fallen to one side? ); Arms (can you raise both arms and keep them there? ); Speech (is speech slurred? ); and Time (time to call 999 if you see any of these signs ).

Nationally, in 2013, 1,174 women and 827 men suffered stroke-related deaths.

According to the Irish Heart Foundation, the main reason more women die from stroke is that they live longer than men, resulting in a greater likelihood of being affected by the disease.

However, other factors are also at play such as the higher risk of stroke of women with atrial fibrillation than men with the same condition.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat and is associated with strokes that are more severe and are more likely to be fatal.

Mr Macey continued: “The good news is that acute stroke services in Ireland have undergone rapid improvement in recent years, which means that more people than ever are surviving stroke and getting their lives back in the aftermath.

“But to make the most of these enhanced services, it is vital that people get expert help as fast as possible.

“The average stroke destroys around two million brain cells every minute. So the quicker you get to hospital after a stroke, the more of your brain the doctors can save.”

Mr Macey also said making smart lifestyle choices could reduce the number of strokes.

“Lifestyle changes such as drinking in moderation, not smoking, being more active and improving your diet can have a dramatic impact in lowering stroke risk,” he said. “It is also crucial to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is estimated that 40 per cent of strokes could be prevented through better control of blood pressure.”

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