Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death for women, and more women also die from stroke as opposed to men. Why exactly is this the case, and are there any differences between the causes of stroke in a woman and the causes of stroke in a man?
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In both men and women, cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death. If this is the case, then why are more women having strokes compared to men?
The reason behind it is that the risk increases with age. Coupled with the fact that women tend to live longer than men, this explains why more women have strokes.
Another interesting observation is that if you look at the numbers, the risk of stroke for women greatly increases at 75 years and older. But does it mean that the causes of stroke in a woman are different from the causes of stroke in a man?
For the most part, the causes of stroke in a woman are mostly the same as causes of stroke in a man. These include high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, diabetes, as well as smoking.
However, there are certain risk factors in women that contribute to an increased risk for stroke:
One of the biggest risk factors when it comes to stroke in women is pregnancy. One of the reasons behind this is a condition called preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a condition wherein a pregnant woman experiences high blood pressure and increased protein levels in their urine during their 20th of pregnancy and onwards. This can be a dangerous condition if not monitored and managed well, because it can cause a stroke, as well as complications during birth.
After giving birth, women also have an increased risk of stroke, especially women who have hypertension pre-pregnancy.
As people grow older, the risk of having a stroke increases. But in women, menopause can greatly increase this risk.
The reason behind this is that estrogen, a hormone produced by the ovaries, acts as protection against cardiovascular disease. And when women undergo menopause, their estrogen levels drop until the ovaries completely stop producing estrogen.
Therefore, this can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in women, as well as stroke.
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One of the possible causes of stroke in a woman is using birth control.
While birth control pills are generally safe, women who have hypertension might have an increased risk for stroke if they use birth control. This is because birth control pills that contain estrogen can increase a woman’s blood pressure.
If a woman already had hypertension prior to birth control, this can greatly increase the risk for a stroke and other hypertension-related illnesses.
Atrial fibrillation is a condition wherein the upper chambers of the heart have a faster or irregular rhythm. This condition is more common in women and can increase the risk of stroke.
People who experience migraines with aura (or sensory changes) have been found to have an increased risk of stroke. This is a type of migraine that can manifest in bright light, tingling in the head, or changes in vision. Compared to men, women have a higher risk of developing migraines with aura.
Despite women having a higher risk of stroke, this does not mean that women should be worried. So long as they maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as eating healthy food and staying active, they can prevent the risk of stroke even as they grow older. The same advice also goes for men who wish to lower their risk for stroke.
Learn more about Stroke here.
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Heart attack and stroke: Men vs. women – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/heart-attack-and-stroke-men-vs-women, Accessed January 18, 2021
Why are women at higher risk for stroke than men? | Brain | UT Southwestern Medical Center, https://utswmed.org/medblog/stroke-symptoms-women-risk/#:~:text=There%20are%20specific%20reasons%20why,%2C%20high%20cholesterol%2C%20and%20diabetes., Accessed January 18, 2021
Women Have a Higher Risk of Stroke | American Stroke Association, https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/stroke-risk-factors/women-have-a-higher-risk-of-stroke, Accessed January 18, 2021
More strokes for men; more deadly for women | Texas Heart Institute, https://www.texasheart.org/heart-health/womens-heart-health/straight-talk-newsletter/more-strokes-for-men-more-deadly-for-women/, Accessed January 18, 2021
Sex differences in stroke: epidemiology, clinical presentation, medical care, and outcomes, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2665267/, Accessed January 18, 2021
Women are at higher risk for stroke than men. – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/women-are-at-higher-risk-for-stroke-than-men, Accessed January 18, 2021