South Texas Women See Twice Stroke Risk Drop Compared to Men

American Heart Association

Research Highlights:

  • The risk of recurrent stroke has declined in the past 20 years among all stroke survivors, with twice the decline among women vs. men, according to a study conducted in South Texas.
  • Researchers suggest more study is needed to understand the reasons behind the welcome decline in trends in stroke recurrence for both sexes, as well as the reasons for the changes in sex differences over time.

Embargoed until 4 a.m. CT/5 a.m. ET, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023

DALLAS, Feb. 2, 2023 — The risk of recurrent stroke has declined in the past 20 years among all stroke survivors, with twice the decline among women compared to men, according to preliminary research conducted in South Texas that will be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2023. The meeting, to be held in person in Dallas and virtually Feb. 8-10, 2023, is a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health.

According to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, after a first stroke, about 1 in 4 people will go on to have another. The majority of recurrent strokes are preventable through the same lifestyle changes, and medication if necessary, that may help prevent a first stroke or other cardiovascular diseases.

In the Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi (BASIC) Project in South Texas, researchers analyzed the frequency of recurrent stroke between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2019 among nearly 6,000 first-time ischemic stroke survivors. Half of the stroke survivors were women, and their average age was 69 years. Participants self-identified as Mexican American (52.5%), non-Hispanic white (40.4%) and other races or ethnicities (7.1%).

The analysis found:

  • Overall, nearly 14 out of 100 stroke survivors had a second stroke within about 8 years.
  • In 2000, approximately 11 out of 100 women had a recurrent stroke within one year, compared to 8 out of 100 men.
  • Over the two decades, the risk of recurrent stroke declined among all stroke survivors; however, women experienced twice the decline compared to men. Fewer than 4 out of 100 women experienced a recurrent stroke one year after a first stroke, compared to nearly 5 out of 100 men.
  • Similar results occurred five years after a first stroke, with 8 out of 100 women compared to 10 out of 100 men experiencing a recurrent stroke.

“Secondary stroke prevention has been successful; however, it has not been as effective among male stroke survivors in recent years,” said study lead author Chen Chen, M.S., a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “We were somewhat surprised that our results showed that in recent years men had similar or even higher chances of having a second stroke compared with women.”

The study had a few limitations. One limitation is that all study participants lived in one South Texas community (Nueces County, Texas), so the results may not apply to people living in other areas. Another limitation is that the study did not include details about subtypes of recurrent stroke, which may point to additional risk factors and the need for more targeted secondary prevention strategies.

“Further research is needed to understand the reasons behind the welcome declining trends in stroke recurrence for both sexes, particularly the reasons for differences over time by sex,” Chen said. “This information will help policymakers understand where to focus efforts that may further improve secondary stroke prevention and reduce or prevent health inequities.”

According to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, worldwide, stroke is the second-leading cause of death after heart disease. Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood vessels to the brain become blocked, which is an ischemic stroke, the most common type, or they may burst, which is a hemorrhagic stroke. Immediate treatment to restore blood flow and oxygen to the brain may help prevent permanent disability. The abbreviation F.A.S.T. — for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911 — is a useful tool to recognize the warning signs of stroke and when to call for help.

Co-authors are Kevin He, Ph.D.; Mathew J. Reeves, Ph.D.; Lewis B. Morgenstern, M.D.; Karen B. Farris, Ph.D.; and Lynda D. Lisabeth, Ph.D. Authors’ disclosures are listed in the abstract.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Statements and conclusions of studies that are presented at the American Heart Association’s scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the Association’s policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. Abstracts presented at the Association’s scientific meetings are not peer-reviewed, rather, they are curated by independent review panels and are considered based on the potential to add to the diversity of scientific issues and views discussed at the meeting. The findings are considered preliminary until published as a full manuscript in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.