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Feb 26, 2018

Women Face Worse Outcomes After Stroke, Study Finds

Study highlights the differences in stroke outcomes between women and men. 

Despite advances in stroke prevention and treatment, women still face worse outcomes after stroke than men based on study data from the past ten years.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, this paper served as an update on stroke outcomes in women. It reviewed all studies since 2007 that looked at sex differences in key outcomes after stroke, such as quality of life, physical and mental limitations, and depression.

The goal was to see what progress, if any, we’ve made in closing the gap in stroke outcomes between men and women.

Overall, researchers found that women continue to experience more activity limitations and worse quality of life than men after stroke. Researchers also found that women were up to three times more likely to show signs of depression after stroke than men.

Part of the reason, according to authors, is due to differences in risk. For example, women tend to be older at the time of stroke and experience more severe strokes than men. Women also tend to have poorer health before a stroke—an important point that was highlighted in a recent report from the American Heart Association.

This paper, which reviewed evidence on risk factors for stroke in women, found that some cardiovascular risk factors carry greater risk for stroke in women than men. For example, atrial fibrillation, migraine and diabetes are more strongly associated with stroke risk in women than men.

Researchers also found that women tend to receive poorer treatment for these risk factors, further contributing to poorer outcomes. For example, women with an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation are less likely to be prescribed blood thinners or receive cardiac ablation—both of which are known to improve outcomes. Women with high cholesterol are also less likely to be on statins and have their cholesterol under control.

What both of these recent studies show, according to experts, is the importance of considering sex when it comes to stroke prevention and treatment. Since cardiovascular risk factors can be more dangerous in women, it’s important to take steps to address risk factors before they cause complications. In addition to prevention, proper treatment is also critical in female stroke survivors as their outcomes tend to be worse than in men.

Authors hope that with future research, we can use that knowledge to improve both the prevention and treatment of stroke in women.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is stroke?

  • Stroke occurs when there is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. The two types of stroke include ischemic stroke, where the blood supply to the brain is blocked by a blood clot, and hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when blood vessels rupture and leak blood into the brain. Symptoms of both types of stroke include sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, trouble with vision, loss of balance or coordination, and severe headache with no known cause. It is crucial that you call 911 immediately upon experiencing any of these symptoms.
  • How can I help prevent stroke?

  • There are many things adults can do to help prevent a stroke. First, maintain a healthy blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, visit your physician to properly treat this condition. Maintaining a healthy diet, weight, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake, and quitting smoking (if you are a smoker) can also help significantly lower risk for stroke.

Featured Video

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. Watch this video to learn about what symptoms to watch for.

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Infographic: Stroke