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Risk Factors of Stroke

Stroke Risk Factors

  • High Blood Pressure: It's the #1 cause of stroke. Regularly monitor your blood pressure and always take prescribed medication.
  • Diabetes: Control your diabetes with proper diet, exercise and medication.
  • Obesity: Being just 20 pounds overweight significantly increases your risk of a stroke or heart disease.
  • Smoking: Smoking increases your risk of stroke by two to three times.
  • Mini-strokes (TIAs or transient ischemic attacks): When stroke symptoms such as confusion, slurred speech or loss of balance appear and disappear, call 9-1-1. You may be able to prevent a major stroke.

What is your risk for stroke?

  1. Have either of your parents, grandparents, or any one of your siblings or cousins had a stroke?
  2. Are you 65 or older?
  3. Do you have diabetes?
  4. Do you have more than 6 alcoholic drinks a week?
  5. Do you have high blood pressure?
  6. Do you smoke?
  7. Do you have high cholesterol?
  8. Do you exercise fewer than 3 times a week?
  9. Are you more than 20% over your ideal weight?
  10. Have you experienced dizziness or blurred vision?

If you answered "yes" to more than one question, then your risk of stroke is increased. Talk to your doctor about these risk factors and ways to reduce them. 

Reduce your risk by keeping your blood pressure under control, improving your diet, stopping smoking and reducing your alcohol intake. Increase your exercise and visit your doctor regularly.

African Americans and Stroke Risk

The National Stroke Association reports that African Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as Caucasians. The rate of first strokes in African Americans is almost double that of Caucasians. The statistics are staggering-African Americans are affected by stroke more often than any other group.

Not all of the reasons are clear why African Americans have an increased risk of stroke. Some factors include a higher rate of:

  • High blood pressure
    High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke, and 1 in 3 African Americans suffer from high blood pressure.
  • Diabetes
    People with diabetes have a higher stroke risk.
  • Sickle cell anemia
    If sickle-shaped cells block a blood vessel to the brain, a stroke can result.

African Americans also have a higher incidence than Caucasians of obesity and smoking, two other factors that can increase their risk for stroke.

If you have one or more of these risk factors, it's even more important that you learn about the lifestyle and medical changes you can make to prevent a stroke.

Women and Stroke Risk

1. Women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men.

Talk to your healthcare provider about how to lower your risk, using the below information from the new American Heart Association/American Stroke Association prevention guidelines.
Do you know how to identify a stroke and when emergency help is needed?

2. Stroke risk goes up due to pregnancy and continues for up to a year.

About 3 out of 10,000 pregnant women have a stroke during pregnancy compared to 2 out of 10,000 young women who are not pregnant. Conditions during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and clotting disorders can increase your risk of stroke. 

After pregnancy (post partum), women can still be at risk for stroke due to the changes to your vascular system while being pregnant. 

Know stroke symptoms and call 911 immediately if you think you are having a stroke. Remember to tell the provider that you have recently been pregnant. 

3. Stroke risk goes up due to birth control pills

May double the risk of stroke, especially in women with high blood pressure.
Lower your risk for stroke by getting screened screened for high blood pressure before taking birth control pills. Women should not smoke, and they should also be aware that smoking and the use of oral contraceptives increases the risk of stroke.

4. Stroke risk goes up due to Hormone Replacement Therapy

Once thought to lower stroke risk, this in fact increases the risk.
Lower your risk of stroke. Hormone replacement therapy should not be used to prevent stroke in postmenopausal women.

5. Stroke risk goes up due to Migraines with aura and smoking

Strokes are more common in women with migraines with aura who also smoke. Get the tools you need to quit today.
Lower your risk for stroke. Smokers who have migraines with aura should quit to avoid higher stroke risk.

6. Stroke risk goes up due to Atrial Fibrillation

Quadruples stroke risk and is more common in women than men after age 75.
Lower your risk for stroke. All women over age 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation.