For women, stroke is both more dangerous and more complicated than it is for men. Women are at greater risk than men for having and dying from a stroke. Being a woman also brings unique health concerns, such as risk spiking during certain life events, and having to balance questions about risk with quality of life and family planning concerns. In the fourth entry in our Neurology and Women’s Health series, Jodi Dodds, MD, talks about these issues and what women can do about them. She also discusses recent improvements in diagnosing stroke in women and trends in stroke that affect both genders, such as increases in strokes among younger populations.
How much of a concern is stroke for women?
Women should be concerned about stroke, not only because they live longer and the risk of stroke increases with age, but because women are particularly vulnerable during specific times in their lives. These can include pregnancy, the postpartum period, and menopause (when many women turn to hormone replacement therapy to manage very uncomfortable symptoms). Having migraine with aura, a condition that disproportionately affects women, also increases the risk of stroke.
What issues do women who have survived a stroke face? What can be done to help them recover their health and live happier, productive lives?
It is more common for women to be full-time caregivers for their spouses than the other way around. Additionally, because women do have longer life expectancies, it is not unusual for a woman to lack a built in caregiver after a stroke if adult children are not available. Optimizing recovery means very early, intensive rehabilitative therapy. Regardless of whether the patient is a woman or a man, every day that the person lies in a hospital bed awaiting the start of rehabilitation can have long-lasting consequences to that person’s independence.