Jocalyn P Clark, MSc, PhD candidate
Department of Health Sciences,
University of Toronto and
The Centre for Research in Women's Health,
Stroke is the third leading cause of death for North American women and the leading cause of long-term disability in Canada. According to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, in 1994/95 stroke-related costs in the province totaled $857 million. The Canadian Stroke Network estimates annual costs for stroke in Canada to be 2.7 billion dollars. Over the next five years the incidence of stroke is expected to increase by over 30%, and those figures could jump to 68% within two decades. Every year among women, stroke claims more than twice as many lives as does breast cancer. Indeed, according to Dr. Beth Abramson, a cardiologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and an expert in women and stroke, "The issue of stroke in women is a significant one. This is due to potential bias in treatment of female stroke patients, but also to the greater co-morbidity and health care costs associated with treating women when they suffer from stroke."
Like other cardiovascular conditions, stroke in women is highly age-dependent: women are, on average, several years older than men when they suffer their first stroke and tend to be sicker. Owing to this age dependence, the health burden of stroke will only magnify as the proportion of elderly women in the population increases over time.