Calls to change how stroke research is done for women

Women are disproportionally affected by strokes. More women die from them, have worse outcomes and face more challenges when recovering, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Margie Hesom was one of those women who suffered a stroke. She had one over a year ago after a surgery.

“My friend was coming around to take me to have my stitches out. I was in bed, so I got up and I was going to say hi and I collapsed,” said Hesom.

Hesom, who is a family physician, was walking again after 11 days, but today she is still trying to recoup her right hand and her speech.

“I am used to taking care of my family, and now they have to take care of me.”

According to the 2018 Stroke Report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, one-third more women die of a stroke than men.

Researchers don’t have all the answers of why this is, but there is a push to change how stroke research is done.

“One of the thoughts is that post-menopausal, they no longer have estrogen and progesterone, which are neuroprotective,” said Nicole Sylvain, who is a clinical research coordinator and lab manager at the University of Saskatchewan.

She said one change she wants to see is early research done on animals like mice. Currently the research is only done in male mice. She wants to see pre-clinical research involving both male and female rodents, something her lab has already done. They found female mice have more glycogen in their brains, which is a sugar-like substance in blood that feeds cells.

“The take home message for our group is it is really important to actually do the research on both male and females pre-clinically, to make sure we don’t miss anything.”

Additionally, findings like this may also lead to better treatment plans to make sure anyone who has a stroke doesn’t miss out on anything either.

“If I had been a man, I would’ve been put on blood thinners, but I was a woman so I was deemed to be low risk,” said Hesom.

Hesom is now working to advocate for better stroke recovery, saying she knows women are disproportionally affected and they need to be studied more.

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