Increased Risk Factors for Stroke in Women

Dr. Sashi Perera smiles for a photo in front of a monitor with brain scans.

Women experience half of all strokes in Canada, but they are more likely to die from their stroke than men. The clinical and research teams at Hamilton Health Sciences are trying to change that outcome.

“One of the main reasons is that women on average are older when they have their stroke,” says Dr. Sashi Perera, Stroke Neurologist at Hamilton General Hospital, which is home to the largest Integrated Stroke Program in Ontario. “Women tend to live longer than their male spouses, so they are more likely to suffer from additional health complications due to advanced age.”

Unique factors

A correlation between specific types of migraines and stroke has been identified, and women are more likely to have migraines than men. Atrial fibrillation, which is an abnormal heart rhythm more commonly experienced by women, is another significant risk factor for stroke.

As well, women are at a greater risk of stroke at certain stages in their life, such as pregnancy and menopause. Taking oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy also increases the risk.

Women and stroke studies

In addition to her work as a stroke neurologist, Dr. Perera is a researcher who is currently involved in an international study that is investigating the lack of female representation in stroke studies.

“We are passionate about helping patients recover.”

“Approximately two-thirds of participants in stroke studies are male,” she explains. “We need to understand why this is the case and encourage more women to participate in stroke research.”

Understanding how biological differences relate to stroke might lead to specific treatments that lead to better outcomes for women.

Excellence in care

Donor support plays a vital role in ensuring that important research projects like this are possible, and donors also help to ensure that the best possible stroke care is available at Hamilton General Hospital.

“We are passionate about helping patients recover,” says Dr. Perera. “It’s rewarding to know that we are making a difference in the lives of women throughout the region.”