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Middle-Aged Women Gaining Weight, Raising Their Stroke Risk
Date:2/20/2008

Study finds both went up simultaneously in recent decades

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Middle-aged American women are gaining weight, especially around the waist, while their risk of stroke has increased significantly, a new study finds.

"In this study, we can't determine exact cause and effect, but it suggests there might be a relationship," said Dr. Amytis Towfighi, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Southern California, who was expected to report the findings Wednesday at an American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

Most stroke studies focus on older people, but the incidence of stroke in women aged 35 to 54 is twice as high as in men of the same age, Towfighi said. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Studies done in 1988-1994 and 1999-2004, she and her colleagues looked at whether the risk of stroke in middle-aged women has increased and what the causes of such an increase might be.

The increase is real, the study found. In the earlier study, 0.6 percent of women in the age group reported strokes, but that rose to 1.8 percent in the later study. Stroke incidence among men of the same age remained stable, with an incidence of about 1 percent.

"In women, waist circumference increased significantly, as did the prevalence of obesity," Towfighi noted. "There was no difference in the percentage of women who had diabetes, were smokers or who had hypertension."

Women in the later study had an average waist circumference that was 4 centimeters wider than women in the earlier study. Average body-mass index, a measure of obesity, rose from 27.11 in the earlier study to 28.67 in the later study. And 14.8 percent of the women in the later study reported using medications to lower blood pressure, up from 8.9 percent in the earlier study. Almost 4 percent of women in the later study said they were taking medication to lower c
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