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Women and Stroke


The Institute for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease recognizes the gender disparity in stroke as a health crisis. To bridge the gap, we are providing educational resources and innovative research to support women in the stroke field and advance care for female stroke patients.

  • Outpatient Clinical Stroke Services - STEP Clinic

    Outpatient Clinical Stroke Services - STEP Clinic



    6410 Fannin Street, Suite 1014
    Houston, TX 77030


    (832) 325-7080


    (713) 512-2239

    Our Purpose

    Stroke is a preventable disease with devastating consequences. The risk of stroke can be decreased by addressing and controlling risk factors. Risk factors are medical conditions or lifestyle practices that can increase one's chance of having a stroke.

    At the STEP Clinic, we know that risk factor control and lifestyle change take time. We help patients identify and control risk factors and take steps towards improving dietary habits and increasing physical activity.

    Our staff is trained to recognize the many consequences of stroke including depression, fatigue, and changes in thinking and memory. Identification of these and other consequences is important for stroke recovery.

    Patients and families have many concerns after a stroke or TIA occurs. These include questions about medications and their side effects, returning to work, driving, and many others. At the STEP Clinic, we work hard to address these concerns.

    Our Patients

    The STEP Clinic serves patients who have had or at high risk for having the following conditions:

    • Transient Ischemic Attack or TIA
    • Ischemic Stroke resulting from the blockage of an artery
    • Hemorrhagic Stroke or Bleeding Stroke often resulting from high blood pressure

    Our Staff

    • Stroke Physicians
    • A Stroke-Trained Nurse Practitioner
    • Stroke Division Medical Assistants
    • A Social Worker specialized in improving transitions of care for stroke patients
    • Clinic Schedulers

    Clinic Services

    • Stroke and TIA education
    • Screening for stroke risk factors
    • Management of hypertension, high cholesterol, and tobacco use
    • Screening and treatment of fatigue, depression, memory/cognitive disorders, and post-stroke pain
    • Referrals for management of diabetes, nutrition programs, and intensive tobacco cessation programs
    • Referrals for driving assessments and programs to assist with returning to work
  • Why are women at risk for stroke?

    Stroke kills about twice as many women as breast cancer each year. In fact, stroke is the third leading cause of death for women. Stroke also kills more women than men each year. A stroke can leave you permanently disabled. But many strokes are preventable and treatable. Every woman can take steps to prevent stroke by knowing her risk factors and making healthy changes. Here are some key factors to consider:

    • Pregnancy-related Issues: Women experience unique stroke risks during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), gestational diabetes, and postpartum complications. These conditions can increase the risk of stroke both during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.
    • Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly during menopause, can influence stroke risk. Estrogen plays a protective role in cardiovascular health, and its decline during menopause may contribute to increased risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.
    • Birth Control Pills and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Some forms of birth control pills, especially those containing estrogen, can increase the risk of blood clots, which may lead to stroke, particularly in women who smoke or have other risk factors. Similarly, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used during menopause can also impact stroke risk.
    • Migraine with Aura: Women who experience migraines with aura have a higher risk of stroke, especially if they are also smokers or have other cardiovascular risk factors. Migraine with aura is more common in women than in men.
    • Autoimmune Diseases: Certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, are more prevalent in women and are associated with an increased risk of stroke due to inflammation and potential vascular complications.
    • Psychosocial Factors: Women may experience unique psychosocial stressors, such as caregiving responsibilities, that can contribute to elevated stress levels and impact cardiovascular health, potentially increasing stroke risk.
    • Depression and Mental Health: Women are more likely than men to experience depression and anxiety, which are linked to higher stroke risk. Additionally, untreated mental health conditions can lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits that further contribute to stroke risk.
    • Social Determinants of Health: Socioeconomic factors, access to healthcare, and cultural influences can also impact stroke risk differently for women compared to men. Addressing these social determinants of health is crucial for reducing disparities in stroke outcomes.

    It's important to consider these unique stroke risk factors for women in prevention strategies, diagnosis, and treatment plans to improve overall stroke awareness and outcomes.

  • How can I, as a woman, prevent stroke?

    Risk Factors for Stroke:

    • Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Tobacco Use
    • High Cholesterol
    • Atrial Fibrillation
    • Poor Diet
    • Lack of Exercise
    • Obesity or Overweight
    • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

    Prevention starts with keeping your medical conditions in control and practicing healthier lifestyle habits.

    A helpful guide is to follow your "ABCS".

    A for Ask Your Doctor to determine what medications, treatments and services work best for you

    B for Blood pressure – monitor your blood pressure levels routinely

    C for Cholesterol – manage your cholesterol

    S for Smoking – refrain from smoking

  • Helpful resources


Women Leaders in the Stroke Field

  • Faculty Research Articles

    As a research institution, we continue to provide opportunities for our female colleagues to strive. Four of seven leadership positions within the institution are held by female colleagues and half of our vascular neurology fellows are women.


    The Stroke community continues to grow and evolve with the valuable contribution of bright and resourceful women; however, I hope that more women could get involve in the field, because it can really benefit from the insightful, organized and caring minds of women around the globe, who give their effort and dedication to advance research and treat their patients with excellence.

    Juliana Gomez, Vascular Neurology Graduate

    In addition, our associates have contributed to gender and race disparity research within the stroke field.

  • References and Research Articles
  • Women's History Month Special Campaign

    UTHealth Houston Stroke Institute Celebrates Women's History Month

    Every Women's History Month (March), we recognize a growing list of women leaders. In the past we have highlighted women leaders in stroke across the globe to honor their contributions to the field, as well as those we have worked closely with. You can view the full thread on Twitter here.  

    Listed in no particular order are our honorable mention list, who are making strides in the stroke field:

    Janice J. Eng
    Professor and Canada Research Chair 
    UBC Department of Physical Therapy at University of British Columbia

    Joanna Wardlaw
    Professor of Applied Neuroimaging
    University of Edinburgh

    Lara Boyd
    The University of British Columbia

    Dorcas Gandhi
    Associate Professor and Research Fellow 
    Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana

    Cheryl Bushnell, MD
    Wakeforest Baptist Health

    Coralie English
    Professor, Physiotherapy
    University of Newcastle

    Dawn Kleindorfer, MD
    Chair and Professor of Neurology
    Michigan Medicine

    Robin Brey, MD
    Chair and Professor
    UTHealth San Antonio

    Robin Novokovic - UTSW in Dallas
    Associate Professor
    UT Southwestern Medical Center

    Heather Fullerton, MD, MAS
    University of California San Francisco

    Jennifer Simpson, MD
    University of Colorado

    Karen Furie, MD, MPH
    Chair and Professor
    Brown University

    Pooja Khatri, MD
    Professor and Director 
    University of Cincinnati (UC Health)

    Jennifer Majersik, MD, MS
    University of Utah

    Julie Bernhardt, PhD
    Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

    Anna Planas, PhD
    Institute of Biomedical Researchof Barcelona

    Ana Catarina Fonseca, MD, PhD, MPH
    University of Lisbon

    Sheila Martins, MD, MSc, PhD
    Founder and President
    Brazilian Stroke Network

    Cheryl Bushnell, MD
    Professor and Director of Comprehensive Stroke Center
    Wake Forest Baptist Health

    Anne Alexandrov, PhD, RN, CCRN, ANVP-BC, NVRN-BC, FAAN
    Professor and MSU Chief Nurse Practitioner
    University of Tennessee Health Science Center

    Else Charlotte Sandset,MD, PhD
    Consultant Neurologist
    Oslo University Hospital

    Hanne Christensen, MD, PhD, DMSCI, FESO
    University of Copenhagen

    Norlinah Mohamed Ibrahim, MD
    Head of Department of Medicine
    Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

    Nikola Sprigg, FRCP, MD
    Nottingham University

    Helmi Lutsep,MD
    Interim Chair and Professor
    Oregon Health and Science University

    Deidre A. De Silva, MBBS, FRCO, FAMS
    Senior Consultant 
    National Neuroscience Institute (Singapore)

    Lauren H. Sansing, MD, MS, FAHA, FANA
    Professor and Chief of Division of Stroke and Vascular Neurology 
    Yale University

    Pam Duncan, PhD
    Wake Forest School of Medicine

    Sheryl Martin-Schild, MD, PhD, FANA, FAHA
    New Orleans East Hospital

    Marilyn Cipolla, PhD
    University of Vermont

    Natalia Rost, MD
    Stroke Division Chief
    Massachusetts General Hospital

    Argye Hillis, MD
    Professor and Director of Center of Excellence in Stroke Detection and Diagnosis
    Johns Hopkins Hospital

    Devin Brown, MD, MS
    Professor and Director of Vascular Neurology Fellowship
    University of Michigan

    Amytis Towfighi, MD
    University of Southern California

    Lesli Skolarus, MD
    University of Michigan

    Nicole Gonzales, MD
    University of Colorado

    Wendy Ziai, MD
    Professor and Director of the Neurovascular Lab
    Johns Hopkins Hospital

    Patrice Lindsay, MD
    Heart & Stroke Foundation Canada

    Rebecca Gottesman, MD, PhD
    Johns Hopkins Medicine

    Tanya Turan, MD
    Professor and Director of Stroke Neurology Division
    Medical University of South Carolina

    Tatjana Rundek, MD
    Professor and Director of Clinical Translational Services
    University of Miami

    Mai N. Nguyen-Huynh, MD, MAS
    Kaiser Permanente Northern California

    Thanh Nguyen, MD
    Professor and Director of Interventional Neuroradiology and Interventional Neurology
    Boston University School of Medicine

  • International Women's Day

    International Women's Day - March 8

    We celebrate the incredible women driving innovation and progress in science, particularly in the realm of stroke research every day, but especially once a year on March 8. Below are some of the women who make up the Stroke Institute at UTHealth Houston. (2024)

    Together, let's foster a world where every woman in science is celebrated, supported, and empowered!