VANCOUVER, Wash. - For some time now medical research has pointed to
women's increased risk of stroke as they age. Women ages 35 to 64 who
were tested in a new study had lower blood pressure and better overall
blood chemistry than men of the same age, but were found almost three
times more likely to have a stroke. The difference? The women in the
study had more abdominal fat than the men.
The findings don't surprise Dr. Bob Djergaian, who helps rehabilitate
stroke victims as director of the Rehabilitative Services and
Comprehensive Stroke Center, Southwest Washington Medical Center, and
who is seeing more and younger women with heart problems. He believes
stress might also be a factor, as many women juggle jobs and
care-giving at midlife, and tend to put themselves last. He says
economic stresses don't help, either.
"Unfortunately, we're seeing too many people who can't afford health
care, can't afford medication, and they're not doing anything about it
from that perspective. There's the issue of fast foods being cheaper
and being less healthy."
Dr. Djergaian's stroke patients tell him they never thought it could
happen to them, even though they knew they weren't eating right or
getting enough exercise. He advises patients to be mindful of all of
the risk factors, not just weight and excercise.
"That's especially for people who have a family history of stroke and
heart disease, looking at their diet, absolutely. Stop smoking, if
they're smoking. Make sure their diabetes is under control, if they
Dr. Bob Djergaian says one of his team's toughest challenges is getting
people, even after they've had strokes, to stay active and keep the
"I think it's a major issue, and I think it's one of the issues that
reflects why there's probably a higher incidence of stroke in the
Northwest, both in men and women."
The state Health Department estimates between 24 and 29 percent of
Washington women are obese, and 3,000 Washingtonians die from strokes
The national study is from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.