Recovery from stroke harder on women than men

Denise Miller poses on her front porch Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Southington, Ohio. Miller suffered a stroke last year. Tony Dejak, AP

Every year close to 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke, according to the CDC, and 130,000 die.

For those who survive, recovery can be long and difficult. Stroke patients suffer from a host of issues affecting everything from mobility to speech to sleep.

Now, a study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is shedding light on another aspect of that recovery – that it breaks down along gender lines. The findings show that women, more often than men, struggle with recovery for an extended period of time. 

 “Women had a worse quality of life than men up to 12 months after a stroke,” said Dr. Cheryl Bushnell, senior author of the study, “even after considering differences in important socio-demographic variables, stroke severity and disability.”

Dr. Bushnell’s team compared quality of life for some 1,300 stroke patients at three months and 12 months. At the three month mark, women were more likely than men to complain of pain and discomfort, anxiety and depression, and trouble with mobility.

At 12 months, women still had lower quality of life than men, but the difference was less pronounced.

While the women who participated in the study, on average, were a little older than the men, the findings showed that age had very little impact on quality of life. Meanwhile, marital status did have a significant impact. Women who were married fared far better than their single or widowed counterparts.

Bushnell said these findings can help doctors in treating stroke patients, to help them regain mobility and other function.

“As more people survive strokes,” she said, “physicians and other health care providers should pay attention to quality of life issues, and work to develop better interventions, even gender-specific screening tools, to improve these patients’ lives.”

On Thursday, the American Heart Association issued its first-ever guidelines for preventing strokes in women.

  • Aliah Git

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