Recognizing the Women in Your Health History

March 29, 2013
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By The American Stroke Association

Throughout March, our nation celebrates the important contributions that women have made to our country and society in recognition of Women’s History Month.

But what contributions have the women in your family made to your health?

The American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, stresses that there is no better time to reflect on the women – and men – who are a part of your personal family history.

The American Stroke Association notes that the risk for stroke – our nation’s No. 4 cause of death and leading cause of long-term disability – is strongly linked to family health history.

Together To End Stroke, nationally sponsored by Covidien, is the American Stroke Association’s national initiative to bring awareness that stroke is largely preventable, treatable and beatable. Stressing the importance of reducing risk while knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke, the association is determined to reach its goal of building healthier lives by reducing disability and death from stroke by 20 percent by 2020.

“Certain risk factors for stroke, like obesity or smoking, can be controlled while other risk factors cannot,” notes Dr. Carol Gill, American Heart Association New Jersey board member and physician at VA New Jersey Health Care System in East Orange. “Although hereditary risk can’t be influenced, understanding that it runs in your family can help you be better prepared to lower your risk in areas that you can control.”

According to the American Stroke Association, you have a greater chance of suffering a stroke if you are over the age of 55, have a family history of stroke, are African-American, a woman or if you have suffered a prior stroke or TIA (‘mini-stroke’). However, other major risk factors can be controlled helping to greatly reduce your chance for stroke including managing high blood pressure, controlling high cholesterol, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity and controlling any health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or sickle cell anemia.

The Spirit of Shrewsbury

“Just like the color of eyes or the color of skin, our ancestry plays a role in who we are today – and that includes our family tree’s health history,” Gill said. “But by understanding the health conditions and diseases in our family’s history, we can start making healthy choices to help reduce the risk for getting those conditions ourselves.”

When it comes to knowing the stroke warning signs, only about two out of three Americans can correctly identify at least one sign. Together to End Stroke is helping Americans more easily recognize the stroke warning signs that come on suddenly through a quick and easy acronym called F.A.S.T:

F – Face drooping

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time to call 9-1-1.


The association is teaching that, when someone recognizes a stroke and acts fast by calling 9-1-1, they have a greater chance of getting to an appropriate hospital quickly and improving the outcome.

While we might not be able to control our family health history, we can control our future and our well-being by taking a proactive approach to live a healthy lifestyle.


Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. To learn more or join in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit

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