Stroke Treatment Gap Between Men and Women (Does it Exist?)

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Although not often discussed, there is a stroke treatment gap between men and women. And, while that gap has seen a significant decrease from 30% to 13% in the past 10 years, such a gap does still exist, according to a journal from the American Academy of Neurology.

This gap is thought to be caused by a disparity between the symptomatic materialization of strokes between men and women. The lack of public awareness in this regard had meant that women were 30% (now 13%) less likely, than men, to receive the clot-busting treatment that they needed.

Find out more about how you can narrow this apparent stroke treatment gap below!

What Caused this Stroke Treatment Gap?

At the moment, limitations in the meta-analysis of different stroke case studies have made it difficult to ascertain the true cause of the stroke treatment gap.

However, a couple of theories do exist (offered by Mathew Reeves, Ph.D., of Michigan State University in East Lansing — the author of the compilation study that discovered the narrowed gap.) These theories are as follows:

  • Delays in Treatment: The treatment gap exists primarily because of the difference in treatment execution. According to Dr. Reeves, women are more likely to live alone. And, as such, are more likely to experience treatment delays — which make the clot-busting treatments less effective.
  • Atypical Symptoms: The other reason, mentioned previously, is the theory that women are more likely to show atypical symptoms (unlike the face drooping and numbness most people associate with stroke). This disparity, thus, makes it more difficult for medical professionals to make the proper diagnosis,

Both theories ring true, with the main commonality between the two being the fact that women are less likely to receive clot-busting treatments in time.

What Caused the Gap to Narrow?

According to Mr. Reeves, one of the main reasons the stroke treatment gap has narrowed in the past ten years is because of increased public awareness.

Not only with medical staff, but amongst the general public as well. Thanks in part to messaging campaigns from the American Heart Association, as well as the increased access to thrombolysis. (Thrombolysis is a treatment capable of dissolving ‘dangerous’ clots in blood vessels, which can prevent the most common type of strokes — Ischemic Strokes, caused by blockages in the arteries leading up to the brain.)

Stroke Symptoms in Women vs. Men

To address one of the most common reasons why women are less likely to get treated for stroke symptoms, let’s go over the difference in stroke symptoms in women.

As mentioned, women are more likely to show atypical stroke symptoms. For example, symptoms that occur (for both women and men), include an inability to speak, numbness that makes it difficult to move, or confusion. However, for women, a stroke can also present itself with the following atypical symptoms:

  • Hiccups
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of alertness

A lot of effort has been made in the last couple of years to make sure that the public is informed of these differences, as it could be the difference between whether or not a precious loved one is able to get the treatment that they need.

You can learn more about how to identify stroke symptoms and what to do in this article about the ‘Early Signs of a Stroke’ – which introduces F.A.C.E. a stroke diagnosis procedure that can be performed by anyone (and for both men and women).

The Bottom Line: Stroke Treatment Gap Between Men and Women

Because of this existing stroke treatment gap, women are more likely than men to die or have lifelong diabetes after a stroke — according to the Insider. It’s a serious disparity that should be addressed whenever possible so that changes can be made to narrow the gap further.

At the moment, stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and more than 130,000 people die every year because of complications caused by a stroke. Just remember to stay informed. Don’t panic, but make sure that you are adequately prepared for the possibility of someone you know being affected by a stroke (especially if there is a greater risk of stroke in your family).

REFERENCES:

  1. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/3799
  2. Feder, S. (2020, June 10). The gender gap in stroke treatment has more than halved in 10 years, study finds, but women are still more likely to be left with life-long disabilities. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.insider.com/treatment-gap-between-men-and-women-for-strokes-has-narrowed-2020-6 

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