Estrogen may prevent strokes in premature or early menopausal women, Mayo Clinic researchers say. Their findings challenge the conventional wisdom that estrogen is a risk factor for stroke at all ages. The study was published in the journal Menopause.
Researchers combined the results from a recent Mayo Clinic study with six other studies from across the world and found that estrogen is protective for stroke before age 50. That is roughly the average age when women go through menopause.
“We were very surprised because these results were unexpected,” says study author Walter Rocca, M.D., an epidemiologist and neurologist at Mayo Clinic. “The old idea that estrogen is always a problem in the brain has to be corrected.” Estrogen can be a problem in older women, he explains, but in younger women, estrogen may be important to protect the brain from strokes.
The study has implications for women who experience premature (before age 40) or early menopause (before age 45) from natural causes or from ovary removal. Women in these groups should consider taking estrogen up to approximately age 50 to prevent stroke, Dr. Rocca says.
Ischemic stroke occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. According to the American Stroke Association, these types of strokes account for 87 percent of all stroke cases.
Some of the risks you have for stroke are in the hand that you are dealt, and you can’t really do too much about them. Some of those irreversible risk factors include:
* Your Age. There has been a notable increase in strokes among women aged 45 to 55. Researchers are sorting out why this is the case, but one thing you can’t change is your age. And after 55 your risk climbs, and a third of strokes occur in women before the age of 65.
* Your Ethnicity. African-American and Hispanic women are more likely to have a stroke than Caucasian women. You are at highest risk if you are an African-American woman, since almost half of African-American women will die of stroke and heart disease.
* Your Family History. If there is someone in your immediate family who has suffered a stroke, you have twice the risk of a woman who does not have a family history of stroke.
* Personal History of Stroke. If you have already had a stroke or a Trans Ischemic Attack (TIA), which is a “mini stroke,” you have a much higher chance of having another stroke.
Co-authors of the study include: Brandon Grossardt, M.S.; Virginia Miller, Ph.D.; Lynne Shuster, M.D.; Robert Brown, Jr., M.D.
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Contact: Brian Kilen