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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019
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Almost 60 per cent more women than men dying from stroke

New statistics have highlighted the risk of stroke amongst women in Ireland, showing that stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer.

File photo of a real human brain suspended in liquid with a to-scale skeleton
File photo of a real human brain suspended in liquid with a to-scale skeleton
Image: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/Press Association Images

WOMEN HAVE BEEN warned to be vigilant about the signs of stroke after new statistics revealed that on average 60 per cent more women than men are dying from the disease in Ireland.

The latest figures released by the Central Statistics Office showed that 1,258 women died from stroke during 2010 out of a total of 2,053 stroke fatalities nationwide.

In certain counties, a significantly higher proportion of women were found to have died from stroke: in Kilkenny, Sligo, Waterford, Louth and Mayo counties, the number of women dying more than doubled the number of male stroke deaths in those counties.

Louth showed the largest differential, with more than three times as many women died from stroke compared to men. The only two counties to experience marginally more male deaths than women from stroke were Carlow and Monaghan.

In response to the figures, Irish Heart Foundation Medical Director Dr Angie Brown said that every person should make sure they know the symptoms of the disease – and know to call 999 immediately when they spot them.

Stroke is the third biggest killer disease in Ireland.

“The higher death rate from stroke among women is not widely known. The fact is that stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer in Ireland and we are particularly asking women to be aware of the F.A.S.T. warning signs during this year’s National Stroke Week,” she said.

The F.A.S.T. acronym stands for:

Face – has their face fallen on one side?
Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech – is their speech slurred?
Time – time to call 999 if you see any one of these signs

The main reason more women die from stroke than men is that, typically, they live longer Dr Brown said. However, there is also a higher risk of stroke of women with atrial fibrillation than men with the same condition, she said.

Atrial fibrilliation is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat and is associated with strokes that are more severe and are more likely to be fatal.

The Irish Heart Foundation says the good news is that because of the wider availability of the potentially life-saving clot-buster treatment called thrombolysis,  those who suffer a stroke can “massively influence their own outcome” by getting to hospital FAST.

“It is estimated that service improvements delivered by the HSE in the last 18 months could ultimately reduce the death rate from stroke by up to 25 per cent,” said Dr Brown. “But they can only work for patients who get into hospital quickly enough to benefit from them.

“The fact is that the average stroke destroys around two million brain cells every minute. So the quicker you get to hospital after a stroke, literally the more of your brain the doctors can save,” she added.

Dr Brown also said that lifestyle changes – such as drinking in moderation, not smoking, being more active and improving one’s diet – can have a dramatic impact in lowering stroke risk. Reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels is also crucial – with an estimated 40 per cent of strokes being able to be prevented through better control of blood pressure.”

More information about stroke and Stroke Week activities is available on www.stroke.ie and medical queries can be answered through the Irish Heart Foundation’s National Heart & Stroke Helpline 1890 432 787, Mon to Fri, 10am to 5pm.

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