Sex differences in modifiable risk factors for stroke incidence and recurrence: the UCC-SMART study

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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Risk factors for stroke differ between women and men in general populations. However, little is known about sex differences in secondary prevention. We investigated if sex interacted with modifiable risk factors for stroke in a large arterial disease cohort.

METHODS: Within the prospective UCC-SMART study, 13,898 patients (35% women) with atherosclerotic disease or high-risk factor profile were followed up to 23 years for stroke incidence or recurrence. Hypertension, smoking, diabetes, overweight, dyslipidemia, high alcohol use, and physical inactivity were studied as risk factors. Association between these factors and ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke incidence or recurrence was studied in women and men using Cox proportional hazard models and Poisson regression models. Women-to-men relative hazard ratios (RHR) and rate differences (RD) were estimated for each risk factor. Left-truncated age was used as timescale.

RESULTS: The age-adjusted stroke incidence rate was lower in women than men (3.9 vs 4.4 per 1000 person-years), as was the age-adjusted stroke recurrence rate (10.0 vs 11.7). Hypertension and smoking were associated with stroke risk in both sexes. HDL cholesterol was associated with lower stroke incidence in women but not in men (RHR 0.49; CI 0.27-0.88; and RD 1.39; CI - 1.31 to 4.10). Overweight was associated with a lower stroke recurrence in women but not in men (RHR 0.42; CI 0.23-0.80; and RD 9.05; CI 2.78-15.32).

CONCLUSIONS: In high-risk population, sex modifies the association of HDL cholesterol on stroke incidence, and the association of overweight on stroke recurrence. Our findings highlight the importance of sex-specific secondary prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3347-3358
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number6
Early online date16 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Cohort studies
  • Risk factors
  • Sex differences
  • Stroke
  • Stroke recurrence


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