Ischemic stroke in younger women more likely than men

Researchers have suggested through a study published in Stroke that women ages 35 years and younger were 44% more likely to have an ischemic stroke than their male counterparts.

The new study is bascially a review of more than a dozen international studies on sex differences in stroke occurrence published today in a Go Red for Women® 2022 spotlight issue of Stroke. Researchers looked at the differences in stroke incidence among women and men in various young adult age groups. They reviewed studies from January 2008 to July 2021 published and indexed on PubMed, one of the largest online research databases in the world managed by the National Library of Medicine at National Institutes of Health.

The researchers identified 16 studies, including a combined total of 69,793 young adults with stroke (33,775 women and 36,018 men), from more than half a dozen countries, including the U.S., Canada, France and The Netherlands.

The authors’ analysis identified the sex differences in the incidence of ischemic strokes was the greatest and most evident among adults younger than age 35 years, with an estimated 44% more women than men in this age group experiencing ischemic strokes. This sex difference narrowed among adults ages 35 to 45 years. Sex differences in older age groups were more difficult to determine due to wide variability in the way data was presented among the studies in this systemic review. The researchers were also not able to identify specific causes behind the higher prevalence of strokes in young women compared to young men.

Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded, “Traditional atherosclerotic risk factors are a major contributor to ischemic strokes in both young men and women and become increasingly important with age. However, these risk factors are less prevalent in younger women and may not account for the observed higher incidence of ischemic strokes in women younger than age 35. Young women who are survivors of ischemic stroke also have worse outcomes, with 2 to 3 times higher risk of poorer functional outcomes compared to their male counterparts.”

The researchers said more research is needed to better define the sex differences of ischemic stroke in young adults and the contributions that non-traditional risk factors, such as pregnancy, postpartum and hormonal contraceptives, may play in the overall burden of ischemic strokes in young women.

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