Risk factors for stroke include those you can change and those you can't change.
Having certain diseases increases your risk for stroke. If you can control the disease, you lower your risk.
Risk factors you can control include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure is the second most important stroke risk factor after age.
- Diabetes. About one-quarter of people with diabetes die of stroke. Having diabetes doubles your risk for stroke because of the circulation problems associated with the disease.
- High cholesterol. High cholesterol can lead to coronary artery disease and heart attack, which can damage the heart muscle and increase your risk for stroke.
- Coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
- Other heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, endocarditis, heart valve conditions, patent foramen ovale, or cardiomyopathy.
- Smoking, including secondhand smoke.
- Physical inactivity.
- Being overweight.
- Use of some medications, such as birth control pills-especially by women who smoke or have a history of blood-clotting problems-and anticoagulants or steroids. In postmenopausal women, hormone replacement therapy has been shown to slightly increase the risk of stroke.
- Heavy use of alcohol. People who drink alcohol excessively, especially people who binge drink, are more likely to have a stroke. Binge drinking is defined as drinking more than 5 drinks in a short period of time.
- Use of cocaine and other illegal drugs.
Risk factors you cannot change include:
- Age. The risk for stroke increases with age. The risk doubles every decade after age 55. At least 66% of all people who have a stroke are age 65 or older.
- Race. African Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk than those of other races. Compared with whites, young African Americans have 2 to 3 times the risk of ischemic stroke, and African-American men and women are more likely to die from stroke.
- Gender. Stroke is more common in men than women until age 75, when more women than men have strokes. At all ages, more women than men die of stroke.
- Family history. The risk for stroke is greater if a parent, brother, or sister has had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). For more information, see the topic Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).
- History of stroke or TIA.