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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to have a stroke without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of having a stroke. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for stroke include:

  • Poor diet—A diet that is high in trans fat, saturated fat, and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber increases your risk of having a stroke.
  • Smoking —Smokers are at higher risk of stroke than people who do not smoke. This is one of the greatest modifiable risk factors for stroke.
  • Lack of physical activity—People who do not get moderate exercise regularly are at increased risk of having a stroke.
  • Drug use —Use of drugs, particularly cocaine and amphetamines, increases your risk for stroke.
  • Conditions—The following conditions increase your risk of having a stroke:
  • Age—Your risk of having a stroke increases as you age. Risk for stroke after a heart attack has been shown to be elevated for people over age 75.
  • Gender—Earlier in life, men are at higher risk of stroke than women. But, women’s risk catches up to men’s risk about 10 years after menopause.
  • Genetic factors—Certain inherited traits may put a person at increased risk for stroke. Your risk of stroke is higher if a family member has had a stroke. This risk factor is minimal in relation to the other risk factors. But, there are some rare genetic conditions that may raise the chance of having a stroke.
  • Ethnic background—African Americans are more likely to have hemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes. This may be due to a higher incidence of high blood pressure among African Americans. This risk is also minimal in relation to the other risk factors.