Which women are most at risk of stroke?

Table of Contents

  1. Women and stroke risk
  2. Female-specific stroke risk factors

A paper published this week outlines stroke risk factors that are specific to women. The authors hope that increasing awareness will help identify people who should be monitored more closely.
Woman patient with woman doctorA new review examines stroke risk factors in women.

Strokes kill an estimated 140,000 people in the United States each year. That accounts for around 1 in 20 deaths.

Breaking that statistic down further, someone dies of stroke in the U.S. every 4 minutes.

Such a huge health concern has garnered significant interest from health authorities, governmental bodies, and scientists.

Over the years, studies have found a range of risk factors associated with stroke. For instance, risk of stroke increases with age, and individuals with high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes also have increased risk.

Ethnicity makes a difference, too — strokes occur more often in African American adults than in white, Hispanic, or Asian American adults, for instance.

Certain lifestyle factors also play their part — activities such as smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, taking certain illegal drugs, being obese, and eating an unhealthful diet are all known to take their toll.

Women and stroke risk

One risk factor for stroke that many people are not aware of is sex — women are more likely to experience stroke than men. They are also more likely to die as a result. Every year, around 425,000 women have a stroke, which is 55,000 more than men.

The reason for the increased risk and mortality is not fully fleshed out, but a study published in the journal Stroke this week takes an in-depth look and fills in some of the blanks.

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The new study paper is part of a special edition of the journal that focuses specifically on women’s health, which is timed to coincide with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Go Red month.

The corresponding author of the new study, Dr. Kathryn Rexrode — from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Medicine in Boston, MA — explains the importance of this study.

“As women age,” she notes, “they are much more likely to have a stroke as a first manifestation of cardiovascular disease rather than heart attack. We want to better understand susceptibility: why do more women have strokes than men? What factors are contributing and disproportionately increasing women’s risk?”

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