Stroke Risk Factors

It’s estimated that up to 80% of all strokes are actually preventable. By keeping in mind key risk factors and making certain lifestyle changes, you can diminish the likelihood of having a stroke.

Certain genetic traits, medical conditions and lifestyle habits can increase your risk of having a stroke. Though some of these factors are outside of your control, many can be changed or at least mitigated through lifestyle changes.

Some of the major risk factors for stroke are:

  • Age: The likelihood of stroke increases with age, effectively doubling every decade after you turn 55.
  • Sex: Men are at a higher risk than women for strokes, particularly at younger ages. However, because women tend to have strokes at a more advanced age, their likelihood of recovery is far less than men’s.
  • Ethnicity: Strokes occur more often in Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native people and are less common for people who are white, Hispanic, or Asian American.
  • Family history: A family history of stroke can put you at far higher risk for having a stroke yourself.
  • Medications: Many medications can increase your likelihood of stroke, and you should always ask your physician about any potential side effects your medications may have. Blood-thinning drugs can sometimes make a stroke more likely through bleeding. Taking birth control pills or hormone therapies that include estrogen can also increase your risk.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure): Strokes are between four and six times more likely to occur in people with high blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol or dyslipidemia: High cholesterol can double your risk of having a stroke.
  • Heart disease and atrial fibrillation: Strokes are six times more likely to occur in people with heart disease.
  • Weight: Obesity and excess weight are major contributors to heart disease and high cholesterol, both of which increase your likelihood of having stroke.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use: Heavy smoking can increase the risk for stroke. People who smoke are twice as lucky to suffer a stroke than people who do not.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can also put you at higher risk for stroke.
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Stress and mental health challenges
  • Inadequate sleep or sleep apnea
  • Atherosclerotic disease: Hardening of blood vessels in the brain and outside the brain and carotid stenosis are risk factors for stroke.
  • Clotting disorder: People who have genetic (inherited) clotting disorders and those who are pregnant have a higher risk of having a stroke.

The more of these risk factors you have, the more likely you may be to have a stroke.

Assess Your Stroke Risk