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Risk Factors for Stroke

Patient with blood pressure cuffThere are five non-modifiable risk factors for stroke. Having one or more uncontrollable risk factors for stroke does not make a person fated to have a stroke. With proper attention to controllable stroke risk factors, the risk for stroke can be reduced.

Gender: Men are 30 percent more likely than women to have a stroke, yet more women die from their strokes than men. In fact, strokes kill more women each year than breast cancer.

Age: Age is one of the single most important risk factor of stroke worldwide. The incidence of stroke increases with age. It is important to note, however, that one-quarter of all stroke survivors are younger than 65. It is not strictly a disease of the elderly.

Race: African Americans have more than twice the risk for stroke than Caucasians. This is due to the greater number of other risk factors present in the African American population.

History of prior stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A previous history of stroke or TIA significantly increases the risk for recurrent stroke. The risk is highest within the first 30 days after a stroke. TIAs are called mini-strokes and are stroke warning signs that should be treated as a medical emergency. A person experiencing a TIA is at the greatest risk for stroke during the first days and weeks following the TIA episode.

Heredity: Having a family member who has previously experienced a stroke or TIA younger than 60 can increase the risk for stroke among other family members.

Modifiable, or controllable, risk factors are mostly related to lifestyle choices.

They include:

  • High blood pressure (140/90 or above)
  • Atrial Fibrillation (Irregular Rapid Heartbeat)
  • Smoking
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • Excessive Consumption of Alcohol
  • Illegal Drug Use
  • Excess Weight and Lack of Exercise

The single most important way to lower the risk for having a stroke is lowering blood pressure.



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