In a new study, researchers found women ages 35 years and younger were 44% more likely to have an ischemic stroke (caused by blocked blood vessels in the brain) than their male counterparts.
In the study, 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.
Most of the strokes in the review were ischemic strokes, which account for about 87% of all strokes.
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 team found 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.
According to the researchers, the incidence of ischemic stroke increases exponentially with age, and only 15% of all ischemic strokes occur in adults younger than age 50 years.
Based on their analysis, the researchers say stroke 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 men.
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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The study is published in Stroke. One author of the study is Michelle H. Leppert.
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