Strokes have recently tripled among middle-aged women, a trend that doctors are calling “alarming.”
While only about 0.5 percent of women aged 35 to 54 had a stroke from 1988 to 1994, a federal health survey found that had increased to nearly 2 percent between 1999 and 2004.
Physicians say that the obesity epidemic is to blame for the startling rise in strokes. Women’s waists have grown by nearly two inches in the last 10 years, and women’s average body mass index rose from 27 to 29. Blood sugar levels have also increased.
The increase in strokes came despite the fact that more women are taking drugs to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure, which are both things that should lower stroke risk.
While women’s stroke risk skyrocketed, stroke risk among middle-aged men stayed the same. Researchers say the gender difference could be due to belly fat, a known risk factor for stroke.
Abdominal obesity in women rose from 47 percent to 59 percent, while the change in men was smaller.