Menopausal status and ethnicity impact stroke risk factors



This is an abstract from a research study we conducted and presented at the International Stroke Conference in San Antonio Texas last month. 

Menopausal status and ethnicity influence the incidence of modifiable stroke risk factors, according to a new study.
Researchers examined the presence of modifiable risk factors in 2,259 women categorized by ethnicity and menopausal status, diagnosed cholesterol disorders, hypertension and metabolic syndrome.
In the study:
• 60 percent of the women were post-menopausal (57 percent Caucasian, 25 percent African American and 14 percent Hispanic).
• 30 percent were pre-menopausal (34 percent Caucasian, 22 percent African American and 38 percent Hispanic).
• 9 percent were peri-menopausal.

Significant increases in the incidence of hypertension and cholesterol disorders occurred in all ethnic groups, while African Americans and Hispanics also had significantly higher incidences of metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides and diabetes. Caucasian women had increases in metabolic syndrome and cholesterol disorders between peri- and post-menopause. Stroke risk scores were consistently higher in African-American women across all menopausal stages.

Risk factors were high in the 3 percent who experienced premature menopause: 45 percent for hypertension; 45 percent for metabolic syndrome; 42 percent for cholesterol disorders and 92 percent for overweight.
The high incidence of stroke risk factors in women with premature menopause indicates age of menopause onset is not significant, the scientists said.

“Ideally, healthcare providers should evaluate for stroke risk factors when women are pre-menopausal and closely monitor them as they progress through menopause,” the investigators said. “Early risk factor identification and patient education can empower women who take control and reduce their risk for stroke.”


Over-the-Counter Meds to Avoid With Hypertension


Over-the-Counter Meds to Avoid With Hypertension
from the Heart Health Center

Q: I’m finding that so many over-the-counter medications warn against taking them if you have high blood pressure. Can you tell me why and what medications I should avoid?

A: It’s funny, isn’t it? We often assume that just because a medication is available without a prescription that it must somehow be safer than prescription medications. But the reality is that all drugs can have harmful side effects. Even aspirin can increase the risk of stomach bleeding, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can contribute to liver damage.

Thus, the decision to use a specific medication should always depend on a complete understanding of its potential risks and benefits.

You are correct. Several over-the-counter (OTC) medications can contribute to high blood pressure. Others could interact with your high blood pressure medication, making it less effective. The OTC medications to watch out for include:

Pain relievers. Non-aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Alleve) can increase blood pressure even if you’re already taking an anti-hypertensive medication. They appear to constrict blood vessels and increase the amount of sodium your body holds onto, both of which can cause high blood pressure. Chronic use of high-dose NSAIDs also causes kidney damage, which raises blood pressure.

Oral contraceptives. Birth control pills that contain estrogen can cause high blood pressure in about 5 percent of women who take them. That’s why women with a history of high blood pressure or other risk factors for high blood pressure such as smoking are usually warned not to take estrogen-based contraceptives. Progestin-only pills are a contraceptive option for women with high blood pressure.

© 2009 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at:

Antihistamines and decongestants. Products containing either of these ingredients (think Benadryl and Sudafed) can increase blood pressure and interact with your blood pressure medications. Check labels of allergy, flu and cold preparations, most of which contain one or both.

Weight-loss preparation. Many of these products contain antihistamines and other substances like caffeine that can increase blood pressure. Instead of taking pills to lose weight, talk to your health care professional about lifestyle changes you can make.

Caffeine. Caffeine, which can increase blood pressure, is found in a surprising number of OTC remedies, including some aspirin formulations.

Herbal remedies. Herbal remedies that contain ephedra, found in some weight-loss supplements, can be dangerous in those with high blood pressure. Also avoid taking gingko, an herbal remedy sometimes used for memory problems, if you are also taking a thiazide diuretic. St. John’s Wort can interact with high blood pressure medications.

If you have high blood pressure, talk with your health care professional about which OTC medications and herbal remedies are safe for occasional use. Also make a point of reading the ingredient lists on OTC remedies and the inserts that come with all products.


© 2009 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at:

Women are Different – Heart Attack Symptoms in Women


Do Hot Flashes Lead to High Blood Pressure?


hot flashes

 Women who experience hot flashes have been found to have higher blood pressures than those who don’t.  Systolic blood pressures (top number) were found to be significantly higher in women who have hot flashes regardless of menopausal status.  The higher blood pressures were consistent even when differences in weight, ethnicity and age were evaluated.  This study was conducted on 154 women 18 to 65 years old with no history of heart disease and normal blood pressures (published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society March 2007).

 Hot flashes are believed to be caused by an increase in the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (this is the “fight or flight” system which leads to an increase in heart rate and constricts blood vessels).  This logically can also then lead to an increase in blood pressure.

 Women experiencing hot flashes should make sure they closely monitor their blood pressure.  Remember a normal blood pressure should be less than 120/80.

For more information about menopause, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease see our new book “Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” at

Potassium Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure


 Sodium and potassium work in opposition of each other. When your potassium level is low your body retains sodium and water which can increase your blood pressure. If you increase your potassium intake in your diet you will excrete more sodium and water and this leads to a decrease in your blood pressure. Recent studies have shown that most adults are eating too much salt (sodium) and not enough potassium. The daily recommended amount of potassium for adults is 4,700 mg per day. We do not recommend potassium supplements or pills (unless you discuss this with your healthcare provider first) but encourage people to eat foods that are rich in potassium.

Good food sources of potassium include:


Dried beans



Orange juice/grapefruit juice




Kidney beans


For more info on how to lower your blood pressure visit

Atrial Fibrillation More Common Among Whites



Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common heart arrhythmias in the United States.  Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that causes the top chambers of the heart to quiver and fire at a very rapid rate – decreasing the effectiveness of the heart to pump.  About 2 million adults in the United States have atrial fibrillation which is a very strong risk factor for stroke.

A recent study presented at the Heart Rhythm Society’s annual meeting revealed that atrial fibrillation is more common in whites than blacks/African Americans.   Over 200,000 patients were evaluated.  High blood pressure and diabetes are important risk factors that can lead to the development of atrial fibrillation, both of which are more common in blacks.  This study proves that ethnicity plays an important role in the incidence of atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation symptoms can vary from person to person.  Some people have no symptoms.

The most common symptom in people with intermittent atrial fibrillation is palplitations, a sensation of rapid or irregular heartbeat.  Often described as an irregular fluttering sensation in the chest.

Some people become light-headed or faint.

Other symptoms include weakness, lack of energy or shortness of breath with effort, and chest pain.

For more information on atrial fibrillation visit:

Help Prevent Heart Disease in Women



Odds are heart disease will strike a woman that you know.  It could be a friend, relative or even you.  You have the power to change that.

 Now through June 30th:
If three of your friends take the pledge, Sister to Sister will donate one free screening to a woman in need. The more friends you tell about Screen Four, the easier it will be to reach this goal.  Please visit