CTV NEWS – Scientists have come up with several theories for why men and women experience stroke differently. First, it’s all about hormones.
Estrogen is one of the main female reproductive hormones in the body, ongoing research shows it is protective against stroke.
This may have to do with estrogen’s anti-inflammatory effects, which could protect against a brain injury. Estrogen also seems to help with increasing blood flow in the internal carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain.
However, these hormonal benefits apply only to estrogen made in the body. Kamdar said taking synthetic forms of estrogen, whether through birth control or hormone replacement therapy, can actually increase the risk of stroke.
Though the elevated risk remains small — 8.5 out of every 100,000 women will experience a stroke because of birth control.
“It’s not that people shouldn’t take birth control, it’s that people with other (stroke) risk factors shouldn’t use this type of contraceptive,” Miller added.
Age is another factor. Women also start making less estrogen as they get older, which could partially explain why the lifetime risk of stroke is higher in women than in men.
Research suggests the substantial drop in estrogen levels during menopause is associated with an increased risk of stroke later in life. If women are outliving men, they also have more time and opportunity to have a stroke, Miller added.
Finally, pregnancy can triple the risk of stroke in young women, said Miller. This is because 10% of pregnant people in the United States develop a blood pressure condition called preeclampsia, which raises the risk of stroke.
“This is also true in the postpartum period, especially if the hypertension is not detected or not treated adequately,” Miller noted.
Another factor contributing to the high risk of stroke during pregnancy is blood clots. Miller said human blood has evolved to form blood clots — especially around the time of giving birth — to keep moms from bleeding to death during delivery …