Sex differences in stroke are observed across epidemiologic studies, pathophysiology, treatments, and outcomes. These sex differences have profound implications for effective prevention and treatment and are the focus of this review. Epidemiologic studies reveal a clear age-by-sex interaction in stroke prevalence, incidence, and mortality. While premenopausal women experience fewer strokes than men of comparable age, stroke rates increase among postmenopausal women compared with age-matched men. This postmenopausal phenomenon, in combination with living longer, are reasons for women being older at stroke onset and suffering more severe strokes. Thus, a primary focus of stroke prevention has been based on sex steroid hormone-dependent mechanisms. Sex hormones affect different (patho)physiologic functions of the cerebral circulation. Clarifying the impact of sex hormones on cerebral vasculature using suitable animal models is essential to elucidate male-female differences in stroke pathophysiology and development of sex-specific treatments. Much remains to be learned about sex differences in stroke as anatomic and genetic factors may also contribute, revealing its multifactorial nature. In addition, the aftermath of stroke appears to be more adverse in women than in men, again based on older age at stroke onset, longer prehospital delays, and potentially, differences in treatment.
- risk factors