Health-care pros tell us their patients' most-asked questions. Here's what they have to say about strokes and arthritis.
Q: Women are more affected by stroke than men. What can I do to modify my risk?
Dr. Paula Harvey, physician-in-chief and director of cardiovascular research at Women's College Hospital in Toronto says:
"It's true—heart disease and stroke is the number-one cause of premature death for women in Canada. In addition, women, especially older women, have a higher risk of complication, disability and death from a stroke. A woman's risk increases during and after pregnancy, as well as through menopause and her elderly years. Nonmodifiable risk factors include age, ethnicity, family history and menopause. You can modify risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity, sleep disorders and depression. Monitor your risk factors and, especially through and after menopause, ensure that you're as healthy as possible. Know your blood pressure and treat high blood pressure appropriately through medication, if necessary, and lifestyle interventions; don't smoke; limit alcohol consumption; maintain a healthy weight; be physically active; and eat a healthy diet."
Q: I have some pain and occasional swelling in the joints of my hands. Could it be rheumatoid arthritis?
Dr. Dana Jerome, head of rheumatology at Women's College Hospital in Toronto says:
"Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune-mediated inflammatory form of arthritis. While there's no cure, talk to your doctor or a rheumatologist to get a proper diagnosis, which will determine your plan for treatment. The goal is to control the inflammation in order to prevent joint damage as well as to improve the symptoms of joint pain, stiffness and swelling. If the swelling is persistent, it may indicate that the disease is inadequately controlled, and treatment can often be optimized with changes to your medication. Your doctor may also send you to a physical or occupational therapist who can teach you strategies to ease joint discomfort and exercises to help maintain hand function. Some patients also benefit from wax baths, which may help ease pain and joint stiffness, and topical anti-inflammatories."