This article reviews sex differences in stroke risk and presentation, with a particular emphasis on the unique risk factors women experience throughout the lifespan.
Although prior studies suggested women have worse outcomes after stroke, it is now clear that age, prestroke functional status, and comorbidities explain many of the differences between men and women in stroke severity, functional outcomes, and mortality. Several meta-analyses and large cohort studies have evaluated the risk factors for women related to reproductive factors and found that fewer years between menarche and menopause, pregnancy complications (preeclampsia/eclampsia, preterm delivery, and stillbirth), oophorectomy, hormone replacement therapy use, and younger age at menopause all increase the risk of stroke. Although the nonreproductive risks of stroke overlap between men and women, those with greater impact on women include age, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, socioeconomic status, and depression.
Significant sex differences are observed in risk factors of stroke and stroke outcome. Including this information in the clinical assessment of the individual patient may support development of more effective prevention plans.