Men vs. Women

24.07.2017 |

Episode #5 of the course Stroke prevention: Living longer and better by Marselina Arshakyan


Welcome, everybody! Men will like today’s lesson more than women. Read on and you’ll find out why.

The prevalence of excess body weight and obesity among youths and adults is a rapidly increasing incidence worldwide. It has already reached epidemic dimensions, and although almost everybody is aware of the health issues obesity can cause, with high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke at the top of the list, losing weight and getting body mass into a healthy range remains a challenge.

Being overweight or obese can boost our risk of suffering a stroke. But this risk is far from being equal for everybody. Let’s have a closer look.


Obesity, stroke, and age

The results of the research studying the link between excess body weight, age, and stroke showed that the risk may be greater among younger rather than older people, and increasing body weight in young adulthood (20-49 years old) is correlated with a gradually increased risk of stroke independently of other risk factors.

But more importantly, being obese or overweight during young adulthood can still contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and mortality even after losing weight in later life.

So, that’s why it’s becoming crucial to emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight during youth. But unfortunately, the epidemic of obesity is significantly increasing nowadays, and even if weight control has great importance at all ages, younger individuals are considered the more targeted group for obesity control in stroke prevention campaigns.


Obesity, stroke, and sex/gender

The correlation between being overweight or obese and an increased risk of stroke used to define by body mass index (BMI). Previous research showed that each unit increase in BMI was associated with a 6% increased stroke risk.

However, BMI may not be an exact calculation of obesity, particularly because even if women tend to have lower body mass, the proportion of body fat is significantly higher in women than in men, and its distribution is also different.

In fact, new evidence in stroke indicates that the distribution of body fat is a better predictor of stroke risk than BMI, and currently, abdominal obesity, as estimated by waist circumference (WC), is considered a marker that can more accurately indicate the degree of stroke risk. WC is the circumference of the abdomen around the top of the hipbone. Abdominal obesity is defined by a WC >35 inches for women and >40 inches for men.

Numerous studies have found that elevated abdominal obesity is an independent risk factor for stroke, but the chances of suffering a stroke are different in men and women.

A very recent study on sex-related differences in abdominal obesity impact on stroke risk indicated striking results: abdominal obesity is a risk factor for stroke in women but is not significant in men.

This means that while abdominal obesity is a risk factor in both sexes, it strongly increases the stroke risks in women but not in men.

Furthermore, the same study also noted that increased BMI or increased weight is a protective factor in men and is associated with lower risk of stroke in men.

Yes, I promised that overweight men will like this lesson. But I have some interesting news for both sexes, and that’s called the “obesity paradox,” which means obese people have much higher chances of surviving after a stroke than people with normal weight. For this reason, stroke prevention guidelines for people who already suffered one do not recommend weight loss after a first stroke.


Stroke in men and women: some more statistics

In general, men are at higher risk of stroke than women, and more men than women at the same age have a stroke, since generally men smoke more, drink more, etc. But because women live longer, and there is a much higher incidence of stroke at older ages, overall more women than men have strokes each year, and at least 55,000 more women than men die every year from stroke.

In addition to abdominal obesity, other factors that may increase stroke risks for women include pregnancy and oral contraceptive use, which we’ll discuss in the next lesson. We’ll also focus on the importance of being physically active for effective stroke prevention.

Take care,

Marselina A.


Recommended book

The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss by Dr. Jason Fung and Timothy Noakes


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