Stroke Program

Stroke Risk Factors

About 795,000 Americans will have a stroke this year—that's one person every 40 seconds. You can reduce your chance of suffering a stroke by gaining a greater understanding of how this condition occurs and by identifying common risk factors and symptoms.

Some factors that increase your risk of stroke are genetically determined. Others simply happen naturally or are due to lifestyle. The factors resulting from heredity or natural processes can't be changed, but those that are environmental can be modified with the help of our comprehensive approach to vascular care.

The five uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Male
  • African American heritage
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Family history of stroke

The basic controllable risk factors include:

  • Treatable medical disorders, such as: diabetes, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, personal history of stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), and patent foramen ovale (or "PFO," an abnormal opening between the right and left sides of the heart)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Drug abuse (especially cocaine)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Low estrogen in women

The risk of stroke is greatly reduced by lowering your blood pressure, smoking cessation, beginning or increasing exercise, controlling medical problems, maintaining optimal weight and eating a healthy diet.