A Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center study released on Friday found a gender divide in stroke recovery. The findings revealed that women, more than men, have a harder stroke recovery experience over a longer period of time.
A stroke occurs when blood vessels burst or a blood clot forms in the brain, cutting off oxygen and its pathway to the brain. Signs of a stroke include feelings of a weak or numb arm, difficulty in talking and drooping on one side of the face. A stroke could lead to vision impairment, memory loss, permanent paralysis or impaired language skills.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 800,000 Americans who suffer from a stroke annually, while 130,000 die each year.
Now it is known that of the patients who do recover from a stroke, women have a worse quality of life. One of the senior authors of the Wake Forest study said that this applies up to 12 months, even after taking into consideration social and demographic aspects, disability and the severity of the stroke.
The researchers studied 1,300 patients with stroke and compared their quality of life at both a quarter of a year and then a full year. After three months, it was more likely for women to experience discomfort and pain, along with depression, anxiety and mobility issues. This continued to be a problem for the rest of the 12-month period.
The study did note that the women in the research study were older than the men; however, according to findings, that aspect had little to no impact on the quality of their life. There was one social aspect which did have an impact and that was marital status. The study found that married women experienced less pain than women who were single or widowed. Nevertheless, in general, women do in fact experience a harder time in their recovery process from a stroke than men, no matter the demographics.
The findings come just a day after the American Heart Association on Thursday released guidelines to prevent strokes in women. The guidelines focused in particular on pregnancy, birth control, depression and other conditions that frequently affect women more than men.
One of the more revealing findings in the guidelines was the fact that migraines, more common in women than men, are a concern for getting a stroke when accompanied by an aura.
The study also found that taking oral contraceptives can be dangerous and increase the risk of a stroke if the individual has high blood pressure. This factor is a low risk, but it progressively rises in women in their mid- to late forties. More than 10 million women in the U.S. use birth control pills.
The guidelines also points out that smoking increases the risk of getting a stroke. Thus, women are urged to stop smoking.
Both the guidelines and the research study, released on Thursday and Friday respectively, raise awareness of just how vulnerable women are to strokes and how much harder is it to recover for women. A stroke specialist in Cleveland told CBS that the medical community has neglected the issue of gender; and now, women’s issues are put to the forefront as they should be.
By Kollin Lore