Page last updated at 00:30 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Women 'ignorant' of stroke risk

By Geoff Adams-Spink
Age and disability correspondent, BBC News

Photo of a woman having her blood pressure taken
Most women are unaware of the optimal blood pressure reading

Most women are ignorant of small lifestyle changes that would "dramatically reduce" the risk of strokes, the Stroke Association says.

The charity has survey evidence that shows 60% of women do not remember their last blood pressure reading.

Two-thirds do not know what an optimal blood pressure reading should be. Two surveys were conducted by GFK NOP among 1,000 people aged over 16.

Stroke is the most common cause of long-term disability, it says.

Women are twice as likely to die from it as men, it added.

And it points out that a third of stroke survivors have some sort of communication difficulty.

It predicts that 110 women under the age of 65 will have a stroke this week, 37 of whom will die.

People don't realise that by making very small lifestyle changes they can dramatically reduce the risk of having a stroke
Joe Korner
Stroke Association

Had they controlled their blood pressure, 15 of them could have avoided a stroke altogether.

The survey showed that while more than 20% of women had been prescribed medication to control their blood pressure, 12% were not taking it regularly and thereby putting themselves at greater risk.

The Stroke Association is urging working-age women to have their blood pressure checked regularly and advices that an optimal reading is 120/80 mmHg.

Further research found that more than 80% of women failed to make a connection between a lack of exercise and the increased risk of having a stroke.

More than two-thirds did not realise that there was also a link between poor diet, alcohol consumption and having a stroke.

"Regular, excessive drinking, smoking, poor diet and a lack of exercise mean that women are pushing their blood pressure to dangerous levels without realising it," said Joe Korner, the association's director of external affairs.

"People don't realise that by making very small lifestyle changes they can dramatically reduce the risk of having a stroke - for example, moderate exercise can decrease the chances by 27% and eating your 'five-a-day' can reduce the risk by a quarter."

Out of the blue

Caroline Osborn from Colchester had a stroke when she was 41.

Apart from occasional migraines, she had no prior warning of what was about to happen.

Fortunately, her husband - a trained first aider - recognised the symptoms and called for an ambulance. Two years on, her vision remains poor and she has cognitive problems.

"I was a self-employed bookkeeper and auditor before my stroke, but my numeracy has been affected and I haven't been able to return to work," she told the BBC News website.

"Although my job was stressful, I was otherwise fit and healthy, exercised regularly and I ate a good diet."

Mrs Osborn says she has not received any advice on how to avoid a further stroke since having hers.

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