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Stroke Risk Factors


Knowing your risk factors is the first step in preventing a future stroke. You can change or treat some risk factors, and others you cannot. By having regular medical checkups and knowing your risk, you can focus on what you can change to lower your stroke risk.

Stroke Risk Factors 

Risk factors you can change or treat

  • High blood pressure. This is the single most important stroke risk factor and the number-one cause of stroke. Know your blood pressure and have it checked often. If it’s consistently 140/90 or above, talk to your doctor.
  • Tobacco. Tobacco use damages blood vessels. Don’t smoke, don’t use smokeless tobacco, and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.  
  • High cholesterol. High cholesterol increases the risk of blood clots and blocked arteries, which can cause a stroke.
  • Physical inactivity and obesity. Being inactive, obese, or both can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Carotid artery disease. The carotid arteries in your neck supply most of the blood to your brain. A carotid artery damaged by fatty plaque buildup may become blocked by a blood clot, causing a stroke.
  • Transient ischemic attack. A TIA produces stroke symptoms without lasting effects but can lead to another stroke.
  • Atrial fibrillation or other heart disease. In atrial fibrillation, the heart’s upper chambers quiver rather than beat effectively. This causes the blood to pool and clot, increasing the risk of stroke. People with other types of heart disease also have a higher risk of stroke.
  • Blood disorders. A high red blood cell count makes clots more likely, raising the risk of stroke. Sickle cell anemia increases stroke risk because the “sickled” cells stick to blood vessel walls and may block arteries.
  • Excessive alcohol intake. Drinking an average of more than one drink per day for women or more than two drinks per day for men raises blood pressure. Binge drinking can lead to stroke.
  • Recreational drug use. Recreational  drug use carries a high stroke risk.

Risk factors you can’t control

  • Increasing age. The older you are, the greater your stroke risk.
  • Gender. Each year, women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men.
  • Heredity and race. People whose close blood relations have had a stroke have a higher risk of stroke. Persons of African American or Hispanic heritage are at higher risk of stroke.
  • Prior stroke. Someone who has had a stroke has an increased risk of having another stroke.

Learn More About Our Stroke Services

For more information about our stroke services, please call 415.353.6927.