Stroke risk for women

Middle-aged women are twice as likely to have a stroke as men, a study says.

Women over 45 are now more than twice as likely to have a stroke than men of the same age, a U.S. study says. The main culprits? Stress and weight gain, along with a dramatic increase in blood pressure rate and cholesterol in the decade before a woman’s 45th birthday, according to researchers.

Until then, women are at no more risk than men for strokes.

In the study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles monitored 17,000 people over a period of six years. They found the incidence of stroke rising faster among women than men.

“In the age range of 45 to 54, women were more than twice as likely to report having had a stroke,” said lead author Dr. Amytis Towfighi, of the Stroke Center and Department of Neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Coronary artery disease and waist circumference were found to be contributing factors for the increase of strokes among women. Another study in Japan found that expanding waistlines increase the risk of stroke in women by 40 per cent.

The research team at UCLA also found that women have a steeper rise than men in several factors for heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Medical care may also be responsible for some of the stroke “gender gap,” Towfighi said.

“Risk factors for women are not being as adequately controlled in middle-aged women,” she said. “This might be because these women were not perceived to be at high risk for stroke, and also, a lack of awareness of controlling risk factors by women and primary-care physicians.”

Men 55 to 64 were three times more likely than men 45 to 54 to have had a stroke, researchers found, adding that the reasons for this aren’t yet clear.

Waist loss
The metabolism of both men and women slow down between the ages of 45 and 60, causing many people to struggle with their weight. And this weight tends to settle in one place – the abdomen – a phenomenon commonly called “middle-age spread.”

“Up until about age 40, estrogen in women and testosterone in men controls fat allocation, keeping it away from the abdomen. Once these hormones decline, it becomes easier for excessive calories to be stored deep inside the belly,” Pamela Peeke, M.D., told AARP Magazine.

How to trim the waist-line? When it comes to abdominal fat, experts say you cannot spot reduce, but need to burn fat through a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training. And as with any weight loss program, it’s important to watch your caloric intake.

About stroke
The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates that there are between 40,000 to 50,000 strokes in Canada each year, and 300,000 Canadians living with the effects of stroke. Strokes kill 45 per cent more women than men, according to the organization.

Warning signs of a stroke
Weakness – Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary.