While anyone can have a stroke, including young, healthy people, some of us are more at risk. Stroke has many of the same risk factors as heart disease. Although some risk factors, such as age, cannot be controlled, there are many risk factors that can be controlled.
Risk factors that can be controlled or treated include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- blood vessel disease (such as peripheral artery disease or carotid artery disease)
- heart disease or heart problems such as angina, heart valve disease, or atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
- some types of blood disorders (such as sickle cell anemia)
- smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- physical inactivity
- poor nutrition (a diet that is low in fruits and vegetables and high in salt and saturated fat)
- being overweight (a body mass index [BMI] of 25 or higher) or having abdominal (belly) fat
- high alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day for men, and more than 1 drink per day for women)
- recreational drug use (e.g., cocaine, amphetamines, and LSD)
- use of postmenopausal hormone therapy
Risk factors that cannot be controlled or treated include:
- age: stroke risk increases as you age, doubling every decade for people over 55 years of age
- gender: strokes are more common in men than in women, but women are more likely to die of stroke
- family history of stroke or heart disease
- race: people of African descent are more likely than people of European descent to have a stroke
- personal history of heart attack, transient ischemic attack (TIA; a mini-stroke where symptoms disappear within a few minutes or hours), or stroke: if you have already had a stroke or heart attack, you're more likely to have a stroke.
- low birth weight
If you're concerned that you might be at risk, speak to your health care professional. They will be able to help you find ways to deal with the risk factors that can be controlled.