|Struck down||Oct. 30, 2006|
|Provided by: Sun Media|
|Written by: DONNA CASEY -- Ottawa Sun|
|Disabling assault on the brain will hit 30,000 Canadian women this year|
Most middle-aged Canadian women heed their doctor's orders and get a mammogram every two years, doing their part to prevent what's considered the most prevalent disease among women.
But a quick look at the stats show that throughout their lifetime, Canadian women are five times more likely to have a stroke than develop breast cancer.
This year, 22,200 women in Canada will be diagnosed with breast cancer but more than 30,000 women will suffer a stroke, with another 60,000 women experiencing smaller strokes affecting their vision, speech, memory and mobility.
"This is preventable, this is treatable and reparable and that's a lot more than I can say about any other condition," said Hakim.
Every 20 minutes in Canada, a woman has a stroke, a sudden loss of brain function caused by a blood clot to the brain or bleeding in the brain.
Hakim said surveys show that women fear the debilitating effects of a stroke.
"It goes right to the core of who we are as human beings," he added.
Stroke researchers are seeing worrying trends on the horizon in relation to women and their risk of having a stroke in their golden years.
A 2004 study by University Health Network Women's Health Program researchers at University of Toronto found that overall, more men are hospitalized for stroke than women, but when women reach the age of 75, they outnumber men in hospital for stroke.
Research has focused more on men and middle-aged people and less on women and the elderly, said Dr. Stephen Phillips, a spokesman with Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Stroke once languished under what Phillips calls a "therapeutic nihilism," with doctors believing there was little hope or help for stroke survivors.
But with the advent of clot-busting drugs such as tPA and research showing the benefits of long-term rehabilitation, doctors are pushing to get more funding for specialized stroke care in hospitals, said Phillips.
But unlike "glitzy" surgical procedures, stroke care can be a "hard sell" in the health care system, says Phillips.
"The thing about stroke care is that it's not very hi-tech," says Phillips of the long months of rehabilitation.
While health care planners are assessing how to handle the looming trend of elderly female stroke survivors who are too ill and frail to care for themselves, many researchers say women need to recognize that high blood pressure is stroke's greatest risk factor.
"It's the most measurable, the most easily treatable so why are we not pushing this harder?" said Hakim of tackling high blood pressure.
Only 25% of people with high blood pressure are treated with medication, leaving doctors like Hakim with an urgent message.
"When it comes to stroke, your health is in your hands. You can become proactive and get involved, and to some extent,that makes it a very different story from other conditions that we cannot control."
|MORE COLUMNS BY DONNA CASEY -- OTTAWA SUN|