Online Health Chat with Chantal Goudreau, RN

May 11, 2016


Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women. Each year, 55,000 more women than men have a stroke. Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, and there are things you can do to help lower your stroke risk. Most people are familiar with the more common stroke risk factors such as family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, lack of exercise and being overweight. However, women are faced with additional, unique risk factors that include:

  • Being pregnant
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Suffering from migraine headaches with aura

To meet the needs of those affected by stroke, experts at the Pauline M. Braathen Neurological Center combine multi-disciplinary knowledge to develop comprehensive treatment plans for each patient’s individual needs. As a JCAHO primary stroke center and an Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) comprehensive stroke center, the Neurological Center also performs rapid evaluation and treatment of patients with acute stroke symptoms.

Cleveland Clinic Florida has a state-of-the-art facility equipped with diagnostic tools such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), duplex ultrasound, digital subtraction angiography, carotid ultrasound and transcranial Doppler (TCD) to detect signs of cerebrovascular disease. Neurological rehabilitation services including outpatient occupational, physical and speech therapy are also available for patients experiencing disability caused by a stroke or other neurological disorders.

Every year, the Pauline M. Braathen Neurological Center conducts free stroke screenings including height/weight, blood pressure/pulse, glucose and cholesterol screenings, EKG rhythm strips and physician consultations for education. Patients can also use the stroke risk calculator on our website as a useful tool to help assess their risk of having a stroke within the next 10 years. Please note that the calculator provided is only an estimate of your risk. We recommend you see your physician for a more in-depth diagnosis due to other possible contributing risk factors.

About the Speaker

Chantal Goudreau is a BSN graduate of Nova Southeastern University and is stroke certified with the American Board of Neuroscience Nursing. She has been a stroke program coordinator for more than eight years and part of the Cleveland Clinic Florida Stroke Program for almost four years. Chantal also serves as the secretary-treasurer for the Broward Stroke Council.

Let’s Chat About Women and Stroke: What You Need to Know

Moderator: Welcome to our online health chat "Women and Stroke: What You Need to Know" with Chantal Goudreau, RN. We are thrilled to have her here today for this chat. Let’s begin with the questions.

Pregnancy Issues and Stroke

JaneM1980: How is preeclampsia related to an increased risk for stroke? Are you still at risk even after giving birth?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: What happens during the preeclampsia phase is that your blood pressure gets very high and out of control. It is important to monitor your blood pressure after birth since high blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke.

LucasMommy: When pregnant with my son, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I'm currently not diabetic; that only happened when I was pregnant. Does having diabetes while pregnant increase my stroke risk?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: No, this will not put you at risk for stroke.

AuntChristie: Does depression play a role in stroke? I have a friend who went through postpartum depression after giving birth. Should she be worried about having a stroke?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: People who suffered from a stroke are more likely to be depressed after their stroke due to their disability and not being able to the same thing they were able to do prior the stroke. Depression is not really considered a risk factor for stroke, but if you are overeating or not taking your blood pressure medication because you are depressed, that behavior will put you at risk for a stroke.

A-Fib and Stroke Connection

Lmg93: I am on the Xaralto blood thinner. If I have an episode of A-fib, will the blood thinner protect me from a stroke? I have no side effects from the drug and have been on it for almost two years. I keep sodium to 1500 mg a day, drink 64 oz of water a day and exercise 40 minutes a day five times a week. I do not smoke, drink alcohol, caffeinated drinks or use supplements. I have tried to adopt a healthier lifestyle hoping to stay ahead of this condition.

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: Being on Xaralto for A-fib will protect you from having a stroke and also will reduce your stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL) – below 70. You are on the right track, so keep up your healthy lifestyle.

BeachGirl33065: Are women more likely to have A-fib? If so, how does this put them at risk for stroke?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: A-fib is four to five times more prevalent in women, and the older you are the more likely you are of having A-fib. A-fib or atrial fibrillation is when your heart does not pump the blood efficiently and some blood will stay in the heart and start to clump up, causing little clots that could travel up to the brain. This is why we recommend people to be on blood thinners, to avoid this clot formation.

Female Risk Factors

Shoelover99: Does taking birth control pills increase stroke risk for all women or only those with other health conditions such as high blood pressure?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: Birth control pills do increase the risk of stroke and may double the risk of stroke in women with high blood pressure who smoke.

AFIB: What medicines will enhance stroke possibility for women?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: It's not really the medicines but more of the lifestyles and hormones that will play a role in women’s risk of stroke. Hormone replacement therapy during menopause will put you at greater risk of stroke.

Marta73: I am a 43-year-old female. I had a right basal ganglia stroke on 2.17.12. My left-sided weakness has improved, but I have a slight foot drop and some left side coordination issues. My right eye blurs and I have muscle tightness/spasm. There is no known reason for my stroke. I'd like to know how common is it for women in their 40's to stroke?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: That is the age where we start to see more women having strokes, and researchers think it's due to menopause and the change in hormones.

LettyP1515: Do women have a higher rate of death or disability from stroke than men? Do women suffer more severe strokes?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: Yes, women are at increased risk of stroke around the age of 45, and it keeps climbing as we get older. Women tend to have more severe strokes and tend not to seek help right away. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women.

Stroke and Migraines

ARivera56: My sister has suffered from migraines for most of her life. Is she more likely to have a stroke? Should she take any medications to lower her risk?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: Strokes are more common in women with migraines with aura who also smoke. She should ask her medical provider the risks or benefits of starting a medication regiment.

Signs and Symptoms

Lola1945: Can you explain what a TIA is? My sister-in-law was told she had a TIA recently, but I'm not sure I understand what that means. Did she have a stroke or not?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: A TIA is when someone has the signs and symptoms of stroke that usually go away within six hours. A TIA will not leave a scar/damage on the brain, and the brain MRI would be negative. If you have TIAs, this will put you more at risk for having a stroke; and therefore, it is important to monitor your risk factors: High blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, smoking, excessive alcohol. It’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

fmdk: I am an FMD with a mild aortic aneurysm and a patient followed by Dr Gornik in Cleveland. I have a family history of aortic dissection (brother), small strokes (mother), major stroke (grandfather) and blood clot resulting in death at 41 (grandmother). We live about two hours from Cleveland. What should we know about how to present to emergency providers and at our local hospital in an emergency?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms and to call 911 and be transported to a facility capable of treating someone with a stroke because not all hospitals are certified stroke centers. By calling 911, they will transport you to the appropriate facility and communicate directly to the emergency department physician while you are in transit. This also will save time, and with stroke “Time is Brain.”

BaseballMom05: Are there stroke symptoms that only women have? What are these?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: Yes, women have atypical symptoms such as pain, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, change of consciousness, sleepiness, heart palpitation and difficulty catching their breath.

Genetics Role in Stroke

KatieandMel: Can younger women have a stroke? I've always thought that only older people suffer from strokes? I'm 35 but have a history of stroke on both sides of my family. Should I be concerned?

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: Yes, everyone can suffer a stroke, even children. You need to keep in mind the stroke risk factors and have tight control over them. These include: High blood pressure, high cholesterol (LDL), diabetes, A-fib, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake.

Gablesgirl83: Are women of certain ethnic backgrounds more prone to strokes? Which ones? My family is Hispanic and I've heard we have a higher incidence of strokes.

Chantal_Goudreau,_RN: African-American and Hispanic women are more likely to have a stroke than Caucasian women. Diabetes is more prevalent in the Spanish community and almost doubles in Hispanic women.


Moderator: That’s all the time we have for questions today. Thank you, Ms Goudreau, for taking the time to answer our questions about strokes in women.

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