Risk Factors

Risks Factors and Prevention of Stroke

Anyone can have a stroke at any age. But your chance of having a stroke increases if you have certain risk factors. Some risk factors of stroke can be changed or managed, while others cannot. Take steps now to identify your controllable risk factors and make smart lifestyle changes to prevent your risk of stroke.

Controllable risk factors

  • High blood pressure: A blood pressure of 140/90 or greater can damage the arteries that supply blood to your brain.
  • Heart disease: This is the second most important risk factor for stroke and the major cause of death among survivors of stroke.
  • Diabetes: This disease puts you at up to a four times greater risk of having a stroke.
  • Smoking: Smoking almost doubles your risk for an ischemic stroke.
  • Birth control pills: Oral contraceptives can increase a woman's risk of stroke.
  • History of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)One or more prior TIAs puts you at almost a 10 times greater risk to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn't had a TIA.
  • High red blood cell count: A significant increase in the number of red blood cells thickens the blood and makes clots more likely to occur.
  • High blood cholesterol and lipids: High cholesterol levels can contribute to thickening or hardening of the arteries atherosclerosis and put you at greater risk.
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Stress or depression
  • Excessive alcohol use: More than two drinks per day raises your blood pressure, while binge drinking can lead to stroke.
  • Illegal drugs: Intravenous drug abuse carries a high risk of stroke from blood clots, while cocaine and other drugs have been closely linked to strokes, heart attacks and many other cardiovascular problems.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm: Some types of heart disease can raise your risk for stroke. Atrial fibrillation is the most powerful, and treatable, heart risk factor of stroke.
  • Damaged heart valves: Valvular heart disease can cause long-term heart damage, which can raise your risk for stroke over time.

Uncontrollable risk factors

  • Older age: For each decade of life after age 55, your chance of having a stroke more than doubles.
  • Race: African Americans have a much higher risk for death and disability from a stroke than Caucasians. This is partly because the African-American population has a greater incidence of high blood pressure.
  • Gender: Stroke occurs more often in men, but more women than men die from stroke.
  • History of prior stroke: You are at higher risk for having a second stroke after you have already had a stroke.
  • Heredity or genetics: The chance of stroke is greater in people with a family history of stroke.

Other risk factors

  • Where you live: Strokes are more common among people living in the southeastern United States than in other areas. This may be because of regional differences in lifestyle, race, smoking habits and diet.
  • Temperature, season and climate: Stroke deaths occur more often during extreme temperatures.
  • Social and economic factors: There is some evidence that strokes are more common among low-income people.

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