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Stroke Health Center

Midlife Stroke Most Common in Women

Stroke Risk More Than Twice as High for Women as Men Aged 45-54
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 20, 2007 -- The chance of having a stroke from ages 45 to 54 may be more than twice as high for women as for men.

Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) report that news online in the journal Neurology.

Amytis Towfighi, MD, and colleagues reviewed data from national health studies completed by some 15,300 U.S. adults between 1999 and 2004.

Participants were interviewed in their homes about their medical history. During those interviews, they were asked if a doctor had ever told them that they had had a stroke.

Stroke affects blood flow in the brain. In most strokes, a blood vessel in the brain is blocked. Those strokes are called ischemic strokes. Other strokes, called bleeding or hemorrhagic strokes, happen when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or bursts.

Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death for U.S. adults. It's also a leading cause of disability.

Stroke becomes more common with age. It's relatively rare -- but still possible -- in middle-aged or young adults.

Stroke Study

Of the approximately 15,300 adults interviewed, only 606 said they had been diagnosed as having had a stroke.

As expected, stroke was most common in the survey's oldest participants. However, stroke was also reported by 2.5% of women and 1% of men aged 45-54.

Why were women more than twice as likely as men in that age group to have had a stroke? The study doesn't answer that definitively. However, women with a history of heart disease and with larger waists were more likely to report a stroke.

The researchers also noticed that blood pressure and total cholesterol levels rose more steeply in women than in men aged 45-54.

Worsening blood pressure, cholesterol, and obesity may partly explain why women appeared to be more vulnerable to stroke than men in their mid 40s to mid 50s, the researchers note.

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