Number of Strokes Among Middle Age Women Triples due to Obesity

Dr. Amytis Towfighi, of the University of Southern California, used National Health And Nutrition Survey information (gathered on about five thousand individuals in two studies conducted between 1988 –1994 and 1999-2004, respectively) to reach some interesting conclusions. Only about half of one percent of the women, ages 35 -54, surveyed in the 1988-1994 study reported that they had had a stroke compared to 2 percent of the women, ages 35-54, in the 1999-2004 study. Here is one of her newer studies, published in 2010.

Why did the number of strokes among middle-aged women triple in spite of fact that they were on medications that controlled cholesterol and hypertension? Health survey data seems to indicate that obesity, especially abdominal fat, is a stronger stroke risk factor for women than men.

In fact, the portion of women with abdominal obesity increased from forty seven percent to fifty nine percent during this time. Women’s average body mass increased from 27 in the first study to 29 during the second study, and waistlines had increased about two inches between the two studies. Traditional risk factors such as diabetes, heart disease, or smoking did not increase enough statistically to be the culprit.

This study simply confirms that obesity creates an environment that is conducive for other co-morbidities such as diabetes and heart disease to enter the picture. Once these co-morbidities are introduced, middle age women begin to experience stroke rates that are comparable to men of the same age. Strokes also have more recently been linked to depression. This is alarming because men have traditionally been at greater risk for stroke than women, and now middle-aged women may be at greater risk than middle age men for stroke.