Several links to increased stroke risk are specifically female-related, and strokes are on the rise even in younger women. Recognizing these stroke risk factors may enable you to make a change of lifestyle to limit your exposure to this deadly disease.

Women typically suffer more migraine headaches than men. More than just a nasty headache, migraines are caused when blood vessels go into spasm and contract. As these spasms cause a reduced blood flow to the brain and may cause clotting, they are believed to increase the risk of having a stroke.

Studies on 28,000 women aged 45 and above found that those who suffer migraines with aura (vision disturbances) are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as those without. Other studies suggest that migraines are the second most important risk factor after high blood pressure in causing a stroke, even above obesity, diabetes, smoking and family history. Finding the cause of your migraines and avoiding it may be key to lowering your risk of stroke.

Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots in a small percentage of women which in turn increases the likelihood of a stroke. The risk is increased in those who have high blood pressure or a family history of strokes. Although oral contraceptives can double a woman’s risk of having a stroke, the risk is still very low as women under 50 years of age rarely have strokes. Next time you visit your doctor, discuss your concerns and assess your personal risk by taking the pill.

Pregnancy and Giving Birth
During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through major hormonal changes with raised blood pressure. Studies show that in the first six weeks after giving birth, women are 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than at other times.

Studies show that women who drink one glass or more of soda or sweetened juice per day are 83% more likely to suffer a stroke than those who do not regularly consume such drinks. Strangely, the same risk factor is not found in men. Other studies have also shown a correlation between diet soda and increased stroke risk. If you drink a lot of soda and sweetened drinks, now may be the time to switch to water or green tea.

Sudden Neck Movements
Sudden neck movements seem an unlikely cause of strokes, but many major arteries run through the neck to the brain. Flexing, extending or sudden movements in the neck during exercise or yoga for example, may cause a blood vessel to break or form a blood clot. Although the risk is slim, being aware of this problem can allow you to move with more care while working out.