Stroke has become a worldwide health concern for women. Traditionally, it was viewed as a man’s disease; however, the reality is stroke and heart disease are the cause of 8.6 million annual deaths and are ranked third among deaths in women globally. With a staggering three million women dying yearly from stroke, 2.2. million are reported dying from hypertensive disease along with some form of inflammatory heart disease. However, women from low to middle-income countries are more likely to become disabled from a stroke than men and additionally suffer from an increase proportion in overall CVD deaths.5 The Office of Women’s Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies stroke as the third cause of death among American women and a leading cause of disability. Stroke has been associated with more than 137,000 yearly deaths representing one in every eighteen people and with someone dying from a stroke every four minutes.6 Cancer is still believed to be more of a threat in the minds of women; however, heart disease is more deadly as the number one killer in women than all types of cancer combined, and only one in five women understand heart disease and stroke to be their greatest health risk.7 Hence, the knowledge of stroke risk factors, prevention and treatment is critically important.
Stroke has several modifiable risk factors allowing it to be preventable; yet 795,000 Americans suffer yearly from either a new or reoccurring stroke.7 It is estimated that 55,000 more American women than men experience stroke, and reported one in five women will suffer from a stroke during her lifetime. Women’s stroke statistics report 77,109 deaths in one year versus 52, 367 male deaths due to strokes.8 Differences in contributing factors generally indicated at the time women experience a stroke than men are advancing age and poorer health.8 African-American women average higher blood pressure levels than white Caucasian women, represent a 1.5 times greater risk in having a stroke, and are 1.3 times more likely to die from a stroke than Caucasian women.8 The American Heart Association reports 3-4% of all people who survived a first stroke are more likely to suffer a second one and women more likely suffer poorer outcomes than men.6
Strokes are considered to be the leading cause of the nation’s long-term disability, and the cause of dementia in 25% of its survivors.9 Women 65+ represent the largest number of stroke survivors,10 and considering their longer life expectancy, among those survivors women will more likely live alone than men. Subsequently, a woman’s hospitalization will be longer than a man’s, and women will less likely go home or to a rehabilitative facility, yet they are more likely to be transferred to chronic care facilities11 ultimately affecting their quality of life and future independence. Witnessed in both developing and developed countries worldwide, stroke has become one of the five most important causes of disability12 leaving five million permanently disabled.13
Worldwide, stroke among the 60+ age group is the second leading cause of death after CVD and fifth leading cause in ages 15-59 (Figure 2).13 Without worldwide interventions, it is estimated by 2030 there will be 7-8 million deaths from 23 million strokes yearly.13 The incidence of stroke has been declining in many developed countries; however, the actual number will increase due to aging populations, and worldwide projections indicate stroke becoming the second cause of death following ischemic heart disease among these aging populations.12