Research shows women at greater risk of stroke

2/24/2009

SAN DIEGO It is a common public misperception that men are at greater risk of stroke and stroke death. In truth, women accounted for 61% of stroke deaths in the United States in 2004, according to American Heart Association statistics shared last week at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.

However, there is a gender disparity in how women are treated for stroke as compared to men. Researchers at Michigan State University performed a meta-analysis of gender differences in the use of the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator and found women are less likely to receive it than men, for example. The odds of women receiving the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) after an acute ischemic stroke was 30% lower than men.

Another Michigan study documented that women are more likely to report “non-traditional” stroke symptoms such as an altered mental state. Women with a stroke or transient ischemic attack were roughly 40% more likely than men to report non-traditional symptoms — especially altered mental status (disorientation, confusion or loss of consciousness), researchers said.

Researchers defined traditional stroke symptoms such as numbness or weakness on one side of the body, double vision, trouble speaking and comprehending words, loss of coordination and facial weakness. Non-traditional symptoms were defined as pain, mental status change, headache or other.

Previous research has indicated that women are more likely to report non-traditional stroke symptoms, which may delay appropriate stroke treatment.

In the study, 52% of women reported one or more non-traditional stroke/TIA symptoms, as did 44% of men. Altered mental status was reported by 23% of women, but only 15% of men.

The findings indicate the need for further study to improve awareness of non-traditional stroke symptoms in women and to understand their potential clinical consequences, including decreased tPA use in women, researchers said.

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