Stroke in Women | Categories Utah Women and Cardiovascular Disease | DOI: 10.26054/0KQGKA9233


Every year stroke strikes approximately 750,000 Americans killing 160,000. This year over 100,000 U.S. women under age 65 will have a stroke.[1] Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and in Utah and twice as many women will die this year from a stroke than from breast cancer.

A stroke is an attack on the brain. This can occur in two ways, the first is when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body), this is called an ischemic stroke and occurs in about 83% of cases. Ischemic strokes can be caused by the build up of fatty deposits that line the vessel walls. The second kind of stoke is called a hemorrhagic stroke, a bleed, and occurs when a weakened blood vessel breaks, causing an interruption in blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes happen in about 17% of stroke cases.[2] Increased time from stroke symptom onset to treatment is associated with increased morbidity and death. Unfortunately, studies show that women are more likely to delay seeking treatment for stroke than are men and therefore, have a higher risk for death and disability.

The HP 2010 goal for stroke is: Reduce stroke deaths to 48 per 100,000 population.[3]

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for stroke; some that you can change and some that you can not. While Utah is a healthier state than many others, there is room for improvement. Of Utah women, 18 years of age and older, in 2005:[4]

  1. 20.2% had High Blood Pressure (greater than or equal to 120/80).
  2. 29.5% had High Blood Cholesterol (a total blood cholesterol level of 240mg/dL or higher)
  3. 9.3% Smoked
  4. 5.8% had Diabetes.
  5. 46.1% were Physically Inactive (did not get enough exercise, a total of 30 minutes a day most days of the week).
  6. 47.4% were Overweight or Obese (BMI greater than or equal to 25).

Higher Risks for Women

Women under the age of 55 have other risk factors that include; migraine, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and clotting disorders. Women who are on any of these therapies or suffer from either condition should be aware that they can increase the likelihood of having a stroke and that controlling other risk factors can decrease the chance of having a stroke. Risk factors are cumulative, reducing even one risk can greatly lower your chances of having a stroke.[5]

Utah Women and Stroke

The age-adjusted percentage of adults age 18 and older who reported ever having a stroke was similar between males and females between 2001 and 2005 (2.0% for males and 2.1% for females). However, during this same time period, Utah women had a higher age-adjusted stroke mortality rate (54.4/100,000) when compared to men (46.4/100,000). In Utah, between 2001 and 2005, 60.7% of stroke deaths were in women.[6]

Figure 1. Stroke mortality by year and gender, Utah and U.S. 1996-2005. (Utah Death Certificate Database, Office of Vital Records, Utah Department of Health)

Although in 2005, the age-adjusted hospitalization rates were higher for Utah males (16.4 per 10,000) than females (14.6 per 10,000), the actual number of women hospitalized for stroke in Utah exceeded that for men, 1490 versus 1380, respectively.[7]

Common warning sighs of stroke:

• Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or leg-especially if it is on one side of the body only
• Sudden vision loss or blurriness in one or both eyes
• Sudden loss of balance, dizziness, or coordination
• Sudden trouble walking
• Sudden confusion or trouble with your speech.


Eighty percent of all strokes are preventable.9 Knowing your risk factors and controlling those that you can will help to prevent you from having a stroke. Maintain a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and be physically active. If you smoke–quit. To learn more about stroke, warning signs, and recovery you can visit:

  • National Stroke Association:
  • American Stroke Association:
  • Utah Heart Highway:


  1. American Stroke Association. What are the Types of Stroke? from Accessed March 13, 2007.
  2. Utah Dept of Health. Stroke: What is a Stroke? from Accessed December 28, 2006.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010 (Conference Edition, in Two Volumes). Washington, D.C: January 2000.
  4. Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Office of Public Health Assessment, Utah Department of Health, 2005.
  5. American Stroke Association. Hidden Risk Factors for Women. from identifier=3030391. Accessed March 14, 2007.
  6. Utah Department of Health, Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program. The Impact of Heart Disease and Stroke in Utah, 2007. SLC: March 2007.
  7. Utah Department of Health, Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program. The Impact of Heart Disease and Stroke in Utah, 2007. SLC: March 2007.
  8. Utah Dept of Health. Stroke: Risk Factors. from Accessed December 28, 2006.
  9. National Stroke Association. Public Stroke Prevention Guidelines. from Accessed March 13, 2007.

Susanne Cusick, BS

Editorial Advisory Board, 2007 Utah Health Review, Women's Health in Utah