What risk factors for stroke can't be changed?
Age — The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55. While stroke is common among the elderly, a lot
of people under 65 also have strokes.
Heredity (family history) and race — Your stroke risk is greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke. African-Americans have
a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do, partly because blacks have higher risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Sex (gender) — Stroke is more common in men than in women. In most age groups, more men than women will have a stroke in a given year. However, more
than half of total stroke deaths occur in women. At all ages, more women than men die of stroke. Use of birth control pills and pregnancy pose special
stroke risks for women.
Prior stroke, TIA or heart attack — The risk of stroke for someone who has already had one is many times that of a person who has not. Transient
ischemic attacks (TIAs) are "warning strokes" that produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. TIAs are strong predictors of stroke. A person
who's had one or more TIAs is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn't. Recognizing and treating
TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. If you've had a heart attack, you're at higher risk of having a stroke, too.
What stroke risk factors can be changed, treated or controlled?
High blood pressure — High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor for stroke.
Cigarette smoking — The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system in many ways. The use of oral contraceptives
combined with cigarette smoking greatly increases stroke risk.
Diabetes mellitus — Diabetes is an independent risk factor for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol
and are overweight. This increases their risk even more. While diabetes is treatable, the presence of the disease still increases the risk of stroke.
High blood cholesterol — People with high blood cholesterol have an increased risk for stroke.
Physical inactivity and obesity — Being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes,
heart disease and stroke. Try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days.
Carotid or other artery disease — The carotid arteries in the neck supply blood to the brain. A carotid artery narrowed by plaque buildups in artery
walls may become blocked by a blood clot.
Peripheral artery disease — PAD is the narrowing of blood vessels carrying blood to leg and arm muscles, caused by fatty buildups of plaque in artery
walls. People with peripheral artery disease have a higher risk of carotid artery disease, which raises their risk of stroke.
Atrial fibrillation — In this heart rhythm disorder, the heart's upper chambers quiver instead of beating effectively, which can let the blood pool
and clot. If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, a stroke results.
Other heart disease — People with coronary heart disease or heart failure have a higher risk of stroke than those who don't. Dilated cardiomyopathy
(an enlarged heart), heart valve disease and some types of congenital heart defects also raise the risk of stroke.
Sickle cell disease (also called sickle cell anemia) — This is a genetic disorder that mainly affects African-American and Hispanic children.
Sickle-shaped red blood cells are less able to carry oxygen to the body's tissues and organs, and also tend to stick to blood vessel walls, which can
block arteries to the brain and cause a stroke.
Poor diet — Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, while diets high in salt can contribute to
increased blood pressure. A diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may help reduce the risk of stroke.