Harvard Women's Health Watch

Wake-up call on stroke in women

Stroke is a leading cause of disability in both sexes, but it's not an equal-opportunity health crisis.

Most of the 700,000 people who have strokes each year in the United States are women, and more women die of strokes than men do. Among stroke survivors, women are more disabled and more likely to enter a nursing home. For years, it's been thought this disparity exists mainly because women live longer and tend to have strokes later in life, when they also have other health problems and less support for remaining at home.

But research shows a worrisome gender difference even in midlife. According to a study, women ages 45 to 54 are more than twice as likely as men to suffer a stroke (Neurology, published online, June 20, 2007). This finding comes from data on more than 17,000 adults collected between 1999 and 2004 as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

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