Stroke Risk Factors
What Raises My Risk Factors For Stroke?

risks of stroke


Stroke Risk Factors


What Are The Risks Of Stroke?
Modifiable Risk Factors
Non Modifiable Risk Factors
Female Only Risk Factors
What Are My Risks? Take The Test

Return To Main Article
Stroke in Women Guide

What Are The Risks Of Stroke?

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of developing a condition - it does not mean that you will develop it, only that you are more likely to than someone who does not have the risk factor. There are two types of risk factors: Modifiable (those you can reduce with lifestyle changes or medications) and non-modifiable (those you can do nothing about such as your age or gender). The good news is, by following stroke prevention advice you can reduce your risk by up to 80 percent.

Modifiable Risk Factors: Risks You CAN Reduce

High Blood Pressure
Optimal blood pressure is considered 120/80 or lower. A reading consistently higher than 120/80 is considered pre-hypertension (pre-high blood pressure). Stage one hypertension is a measurement of 140/90 or higher. Those with high blood pressure are 50 percent more likely over a lifetime to suffer a stroke than those with healthy levels. Nearly 40 percent of people with high blood pressure do not know it, which is why it is called a silent killer. See, why is high blood pressure dangerous?

Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a kind of irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrhythmia. People with AF are five times more likely to have an ischemic stroke than healthy people. Statistics show that about 15 percent of all stroke victims also have AF. Unfortunately many Americans do not know they have AF and so do not receive treatment in time to prevent a stroke.

High Cholesterol
High cholesterol causes the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis) and can block blood flow to the brain causing a stroke (see causes of stroke). It is also considered a risk factor for heart disease.

Circulation Problems
The movement of blood through the heart and veins of the body is known as the cardiovascular or circulation system. If a person has circulation issues, which can manifest as cold hands and feet, this may mean that their arteries are blocked by atherosclerosis. This increases their stroke risk so they should undergo heart disease testing or vascular screening. People with sickle cell disease and severe anemia should work with their healthcare providers to ensure management of their condition.

People with diabetes are 4 times more likely to suffer a stroke than healthy people. This is mainly because diabetes causes other health problems associated with stroke risk factors such as hypertension and AF. If you are aged over 40, talk to your doctor about being screened for prediabetes, particularly if you display any of the symptoms of diabetes.

Smoking Tobacco
Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke.

Drinking Alcohol
There is still some debate in the medical community about the link between alcohol and stroke (in particular hemorrhagic stroke). One study found that drinking more than 2 drinks a day increases stroke risk by 50 percent. Another found that drinking 1 a day may lower a person's risk, providing there is no other medical reason for avoiding alcohol. Generally there is a consensus that alcohol consumption should be limited to 1 to 2 drinks a day.

What Is One Drink?
12 oz of beer
1 glass (5 oz) of wine
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 oz of spirits or liquor

Obesity & Lack Of Physical Activity
Being obese puts a strain on the body and its circulation system. Obese people are also much more likely to suffer high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Studies also show that exercising 5 or more times per week can reduce stroke risk.

Non Modifiable Risk Factors: Risks You Can NOT Reduce

Being over the age of 55.

42-49 percent of all strokes occur in women but women are more likely to die as a result of stroke than men. This is because risk factors increase with age and women tend to live longer than men.

African-American women are significantly more likely to suffer stroke than white women.

Family History
If there is a family history of stroke, you will need to pay extra attention to lowering your modifiable risks.

Previous Stroke or TIA
At least 1 in 4 people who have a stroke will have another one within their lifetime. A mini stroke, also known as transient ischemic attack (TIA) is an attack which produces symptoms of stroke. However symptoms disappear within 24 hours without causing permanent damage. TIAs are considered warning signs that a stroke may soon strike. Within 2 days of a TIA, 5 percent of people will have a stroke and within 3 months 10 to 15 percent will have a stroke.

Fibromuscular Dysplasia
FMD or Fibromuscular Dysplasia is a medical condition where some of the arteries in the body do not develop as they should. Instead fibrous tissue grows in the walls of the arteries causing them to narrow. As a result, the amount of blood that squeezes through is reduced and can lead to stroke.

Hole in the Heart
Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) is also known as hole in the heart. If an ischemic stroke hits out of the blue in patients with no obvious risk factors for stroke doctors usually check for signs of PFO. PFO produces no symptoms, although it affects 1 in 5 Americans. As there is an opening in the heart this allows a blood clot from one part of the body to pass through the heart and up to the brain.

Blood Type
People with Type A or AB blood are more prone to stroke as they tend to have sticker blood.

Female Only Risk Factors

Hemorrhagic strokes are a rare complication of pregnancy and childbirth but they remain the leading cause of maternal death. Pregnancy also increases the risks of rupturing pre-existing aneurysms. See also: Heart disease in pregnancy.

Birth Control Pills
Taking 'the Pill' may increase the risk of stroke, although not all researchers are convinced of this. Read about contraceptive pill side effects for more details.

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) - the combined progestin and estrogen pill used to relieve menopause symptoms – may increase risks.

Postmenopause women with a large waist size (35.2 inches or larger) and a blood triglyceride level higher than 128 milligrams are 5 times more likely than other women to have a stroke.

Migraine Headaches
Migraines can increase the risk of stroke by 3 to 6 times, and most migraine sufferers are female.

What Are My Risks?

To assess your personal risk for stroke, use the scorecard below which was produced by the National Stroke Association. Once you complete the scorecard discuss the results with your doctor. Tick each box that applies to you, each tick equals 1 point. Total your score at the bottom of each column and then compare each column score with the results section below.


Blood Pressure >140/90 or unknown 120-139/80-89 >120/80
Atrial Fibrillation Irregular heartbeat I don't know Regular heartbeat
Cholesterol >240 or unknown 200-239 <200
Smoking Smoker Trying to quit Non smoker
Diabetes Yes Borderline No
Exercise Couch potato Some exercise Regular exercise
Diet Overweight Slightly overweight Healthy weight
Family history of stroke Yes Not sure No
TOTAL SCORE Your Score: Your Score: Your Score:


: 3 or more: If you ticked more than 3 boxes in the high risk column ask your doctor immediately about stroke prevention.
CAUTION: 4-6: If you tick more than 4 in the caution column you will still need to work on reducing your risks.
LOW RISK: 6-8: If you tick more than 6 in the low risk column you are doing very well at controlling your risks.

  Related Articles on Stroke Risk Factors

For more cardiovascular health, see the following:

Stroke Effects
Stroke Recovery Process
Stroke Tests

Return to Homepage: Womens Health Advice

Please Note: Information provided on this site is no substitute for professional medical help. See Disclaimer.
Copyright. All rights reserved.