IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Middle-aged women face double stroke risk

U.S. women ages 45 to 54 face more than double the risk of stroke than men the same age, researchers said on Wednesday, noting that obesity in these women may be partly to blame.
/ Source: Reuters

U.S. women ages 45 to 54 face more than double the risk of stroke than men the same age, researchers said on Wednesday, noting that obesity in these women may be partly to blame.

The researchers tracked 17,000 people from 1999 to 2004, including 1,117 men and 1,155 women in this age group. They found that the women 45 to 54 were 2.39 times more likely to have had a stroke than men.

“We need to increase awareness among both health care professionals and the general public regarding the increasing prevalence of stroke in this age group in women,” Dr. Amytis Towfighi of the University of California at Los Angeles, the lead author of the research, said in a telephone interview.

“Aggressive control of modifiable risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol will help to mitigate the burden of stroke,” Towfighi added.

No such difference between the sexes was seen in the two other age groups the researchers studied — 35 to 44 and 55 to 64.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

While researchers found that increased waist size and coronary artery disease are predictors of stroke risk among women aged 45 to 54, they said it was not clear why there was a growing sex disparity for strokes.

Towfighi said possibilities include the fact that obesity is increasing among Americans and women are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of abominable obesity. She added that some risk factors, like high blood pressure, have been increasing at higher rates among women than men.

Strokes occur when the blood flow to the brain stops, causing brain cells to begin dying within minutes. There are two types of strokes. The most frequent kind is called ischemic stroke and is triggered by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is triggered when a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain.

Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, heart or artery disease, high blood cholesterol, a fatty diet, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity.

The researchers said the majority of strokes occur after age 65, but younger people, particular middle-aged ones, remain at risk. Women younger than 65 have unique risk factors, they said, including pregnancy, birth control pills, more frequent migraine headaches and use of hormone replacement therapy.