Women Have Double the Risk of Stroke

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Possibly due to rising rates of weight gain and heart disease, twice as many women are having strokes in middle age than are men. That is the stark conclusion of a brand- new study published in the journal “Neurology.”

Between the ages of 45 and 54, women have now catapulted far ahead in the risk for stroke. Researchers believe it has to do with rising risk factors, such as coronary artery disease, waist circumference, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. This may sound surprising, as men are typically thought of when circulatory problems are discussed.

The truth is that, yes, men are apt to have higher blood pressure at many points during their lives, the case is not the same as with women during middle age. At this time, a man’s blood pressure raises maybe five points each year (if left unchecked) while a woman’s rises by up to 10 points.

The study involved 17,000 U.S. adults, 606 of whom previously had a stroke. In this group, they found that women aged 45 to 54 were twice as likely to suffer a stroke — but there was no difference in the age groups directly below and above this one. Men should not feel in the clear by any means, as they were also found to have a higher- than-expected rate of stroke in middle age.

We always thought that men were more likely to suffer a stroke. Why? Because they are men. But this study challenges that notion head on and essentially dismisses it. One expert calls the rising rates in women a possible “crisis” in the making. If it’s anything, the study serves as a wake-up call for adult women who may not believe themselves to be at a greater risk of stroke.

Possible causes include more migraines, use of hormone- replacement therapy, use of oral contraceptives, less estrogen in middle age, and a lack of prevention among patients and doctors. Whatever the case, stroke is one area that is no longer the jurisdiction of men.