Stroke in men and women: Are there differences?

Diseases for both men and women are mostly similar, however they can show with different symptoms or occur due to different risk factors. This also goes to stroke. Stroke is one of those conditions where men and women experience many things in common, however there are also noticeable differences. Anyone can experience a stroke, and it is a tough condition for anyone. However stroke in men and women can appear differently.

Disease prevention and control centers say that men have a higher chance of experiencing a stroke in the short term. However in the long term men have a smaller risk than women. Men are more likely to experience a stroke at a younger age. However women have a higher chance of dying from stroke. In this article read about the stroke symptoms and risk factors that are different and common for men and women.

Stroke signs and symptoms

A sudden arrival or worsening of the following is characteristic for both women and men who experience stroke:

  • Difficulties understanding speech and language
  • Loss of balance, poor coordination
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, legs or arms
  • Difficulties walking, stumbling
  • Difficulties talking or slurred speech
  • Worsening eye sight in one or both eyes
  • Weakness in face, legs or arms - especially in one side of the body

Most of these stroke signs are widely known. To learn more about stroke signs and symptoms, read in our article "What are the symptoms of a stroke and when to seek medical help?".

Stroke symptoms and risk factors for women

There are also some less known stroke symptoms, and women report them more often than men:

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Seizures or hallucinations
  • Loss of breath
  • General weakness in the body
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hiccups

These symptoms can show independently or together with other more common symptoms. Women also reported more nontraditional symptoms like headaches, dizziness, changes in emotional state such as confusion. Sometimes men also experience the aforementioned symptoms.

There are also certain stroke risk factors that apply specifically to women. Women are at a higher risk of experiencing a stroke if:

  • A woman is pregnant. The body experiences natural changes during pregnancy. For example, stress on the heart, increased blood pressure, etc, that increase the risk of a stroke.
  • Birth control pills. It is still being researched how much exactly can birth control pills increase a risk for stroke. Newest studies show that mainly such risk exists for women who already have other risk factors like obesity or increased blood pressure. If you do not have any other risk factors, the increased risk from birth control pills exists but it is very little.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It can alleviate the symptoms of menopause like heat waves or increased sweating. However it also increases stroke risk. This has become a popular topic for research, and newest studies are still evaluating whether this is true.
  • Migraines increase the risk of experiencing a stroke 2.5 times. And most people who experience migraines are women.
  • Mental health disorders. Depression, anxiety and stress are related to an increased risk of a stroke, and women are more likely to experience them.
  • Atrial fibrillation (jeb AFib). This heart condition is prevalent for both men and women, however women are more likely to experience it. Also, women with AFib have a tendency for experiencing heavier strokes.

Stroke symptoms and risk factors for men

Men more often than women have diabetes, smoke cigarettes and drink heavily which increases their risk of experiencing a stroke. In one study about stroke it was evaluated what differences women and men experience when it comes to stroke. The most common symptoms for men were:

  • Difficulties keeping balance, poor coordination abilities
  • Weakness in one side of the body
  • Numbness in one side of the body

Because men experience symptoms that are more widely known, the surrounding people and medical personnel will have an easier time diagnosing a stroke for men. This also reduces the time in general between experiencing a stroke and getting medical help.

In one study about stroke it was determined that men who experience stroke in general leave the hospital with fewer stroke after effects than women. Also, men after a stroke are more active daily than women. This might be due to the fact that men are generally younger when they experience a stroke than women. Because of that it is easier for them to recover.

In general, men recover from a stroke faster and more successfully. Men also have a smaller chance of experiencing:

  • Stroke related disability
  • Difficulties with daily tasks
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Mental health issues
  • Worse quality of life after a stroke

A stroke can occur suddenly. Even if you actively try to live a healthy lifestyle, there are stroke risk factors that are outside your control like having a stroke in family. However it is important to control the risk factors that are under your own control for the most part. To learn more about risk factors, read in "What causes a stroke?".

Recovery from stroke for men and women

Some people recover from stroke completely and do not experience any lasting after effects. Others need a prolonged physical therapy, rehabilitation and medications. Those can be blood thinners, to lower blood pressure, to lower cholesterol level, etc.

Whether you are a man or a woman, recovery from stroke depends on various factors. Those include:

  • What side of the body was affected
  • Time when oxygen and blood flow were blocked
  • Overall health condition before the stroke

It is very important to seek medical health immediately, treat stroke and prevent lasting after effects. Recovery from stroke requires hard work. Even though rehabilitation cannot reverse the brain trauma caused by a stroke, it does help you relearn your lost skills and functions. The time required, as we found out, to recover from a stroke depends on the severity of the stroke.

Even though there are cases when people recover faster, recovery from a stroke can take years. Because women are usually older when they experience a stroke, recovery can take longer due to the older age. The bodies of elderly people tend to recover slower from a trauma. However men usually are more physically active as well as younger when they experience a stroke. Therefore the stroke after effects are usually not as severe as they are for women. Men however often encounter other stroke risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, etc. Either way both men and women after a stroke have a chance to return to fulfilling lives with the help of rehabilitation and healthy lifestyle. This helps them avoid another stroke and protect them from other diseases.