Why is it Important to Know My Risk for Stroke?

Knowing your risk is the key to prevention. By having regular medical checkups, you can learn about your risk factors. Some risk factors you can change or treat, and others you can’t prevent. By knowing your risk, you can focus on the factors you can change and lower your risk for stroke. Up to 80% of strokes are preventable by knowing and controlling your risk factors.

Part of managing your risk factors is by eating a well-balanced diet such as the DASH plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Learn more about the DASH plan and see sample menus. 

What are the Risk Factors I Can't Change?

Some risk factors cannot be controlled. But understanding them can help you determine your risk of stroke and take preventative measures.

  • Age – Stroke affects people of all ages, but the older you are, the greater your stroke risk. Your risk of stroke doubles each decade after the age of 55.
  • Gender – In most age groups, men experience a higher occurrence of stroke than women. However, women are more likely to die from a stroke.
  • Prior Stroke – Someone who has had a stroke is at higher risk of having another one.
  • Family History of Stroke – Your risk of stroke increases by 30% if you have a family history of stroke.
  • Genetics and Race – People whose biological family members have had a stroke have a higher risk of stroke. African Americans have a higher risk of death and disability from stroke than Caucasians, due to higher average blood pressure. Hispanic Americans are also at higher risk of stroke.

What are the Risk Factors I Can Change or Treat?

Some risk factors are controllable and can help you greatly reduce your risk of stroke. See below for more details on some of these risk factors.

  • High Blood Pressure – This is the single most important controllable risk factor for stroke. Know your blood pressure and have it checked at least once a year. If it’s 140/90 or above, it’s high. Talk to your doctor about how to control it. Controlling and treating your high blood pressure decreases your risk of stroke by as much as 44%.
  • Tobacco Use – Don’t smoke cigarettes or use other forms of tobacco. Smokers are, on average, nearly ten years younger than non-smokers at time of first stroke. 
  • Diabetes – While diabetes is treatable, having it increases your risk of stroke. Work with your doctor to manage diabetes and reduce other risk factors.
  • Carotid or Other Artery Disease – The carotid arteries in your neck supply blood to your brain. A carotid artery damaged by a fatty build-up of plaque inside the artery wall may become blocked by a blood clot, causing a stroke.
  • Heart Disease – When your heart isn’t pumping effectively or the blood vessels of your heart are diseased, you are at a higher risk for having a stroke.
  • Atrial Fibrillation – With 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.
  • Certain Blood Disorders – Some blood disorders can make your blood sticky, causing your blood to form clots more easily. Taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor can prevent strokes.
  • High Cholesterol – High cholesterol increases the risk of clogged arteries. If an artery leading to the brain becomes blocked, a stroke results.
  • Physical Inactivity and Obesity – Being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Excessive Alcohol Intake – Drinking more than one drink per day for women or more than two drinks a day for men raises blood pressure. Binge drinking can lead to stroke.
  • Illegal Drug Use – Intravenous drug abuse carries a high risk of stroke. Cocaine use also has been linked to stroke.

Make an Appointment

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a stroke specialist, call our scheduling line: