WJMC - West Jefferson Medical Center

WJMC - West Jefferson Medical Center


Stroke: Risk Factors

What you CAN control:

  • High Blood Pressure – The #1 risk factor for Stroke is high blood pressure. Another name for this is hypertension. When you control your blood pressure, you can greatly reduce your risk of Stroke. Talk to your doctor to learn what your blood pressure should be. Starting at age 55, you should get your blood pressure checked twice a year, unless your doctor advises more frequent checks
  • Smoking – Smoking is a major risk for Stroke because it causes your blood to clot easier, increases the build-up of plaque in your arteries, and every time you smoke, your arteries narrow and your blood pressure increases as a result of the nicotine
  • High Cholesterol – An unhealthy cholesterol balance can lead to fat deposits in the arteries. These deposits are called plaque. Plaque narrows the arteries and can lead to Stroke. You should have your first cholesterol check at age 20. After that, follow your doctor’s guidelines for regular cholesterol testing. The best time for a cholesterol check is after you have not eaten for several hours. You should learn what your cholesterol numbers are
  • Obesity – Excess weight increases your risk of Stroke. People who have a Stroke or heart disease often have excess body fat around their lower belly, or abdomen. This is sometimes called an ‘apple shape’. Obesity can also bring other risk factors with it, such as high blood pressure, higher bad cholesterol, and diabetes. Weight control and exercise improve your circulation and help reduce other risk factors
  • Alcohol, Caffeine, Drug use – Heavy alcohol use increases risk for Stroke. Drinking three or more cups of coffee a day may increase the risk of Stroke in older men with high blood pressure. Use of street drugs, especially cocaine and amphetamines, is a major Stroke risk. Using steroids for body building increases risk of Stroke
  • Stress – Studies show a link between mental stress and the narrowing of the carotid arteries. Learning and practicing ways to reduce stress may help reduce your Stroke risk
  • Poor Nutrition – A diet high in fat, sugar, and salt puts you at risk for Stroke. Studies show that eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day will reduce your risk of Stroke by 30%

What you CANNOT control:

  • Age – For every 10 years you live, your risk of having a Stroke increases
  • Gender – Men have 2 times greater risk for Stroke than women. However, more women die of Stroke than of breast cancer
  • Race – African Americans have 2 times greater risk of Stroke than other races. Hispanics and Asians have the greatest risk for Stroke from burst blood vessels
  • Past Stroke or TIA – If you’ve already had a Stroke or a TIA, your risk for Stroke is now greater. TIAs do not cause lasting damage; however, they are a warning sign that a more serious Stroke may occur
  • Family History – Your risk of a Stroke is greater when heart attack, Stroke, or TIA runs in your family
  • Atrial fibrillation or Afib – This is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. It happens when one or both of the upper chambers of the heart (called the atria) don’t beat the way they should. This can cause blood to pool and a blood clot can form. If that clot breaks away from the heart, it can travel to the brain, where it can cause a stroke. Taking an anticoagulant medicine, can help prevent this from happening.


WJMC Types of Stroke Chart

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