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Home :: Stroke :: Stroke Risk Factors
Stroke Risk Factors
The risks of developing a stroke can be attributed to several factors. Some of them are hereditary in nature and hence can’t be helped. But others, which are a function of some natural process or are a result of a person's lifestyle can be modified by taking proper precautions and consulting a proper professional. 

Risk factors for stroke that can't be modified:
  • Age — chances of having a stroke increases with increase in age. It is said to approximately double for each decade of life after age 55. 
  • Heredity (family history) — the risk of having a stroke increases if an immediate family member such as parent, grandparent, sister or brother has suffered from it. 
  • Sex (gender) — Stroke is more common in men than in women. However, more women than men die of stroke.  Use of birth control pills and pregnancy pose as special stroke risks for women.
  • Prior stroke, TIA or heart attack — a person who has suffered stroke once is at a higher risk of stroke than a person who has not.  Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes produce stroke-like symptoms but are temporary in nature. TIAs are strong warning signs 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. 
Risk factors that can be modified:
  • High blood pressure — High blood pressure is the most important controllable risk factor for stroke.  Many people believe the effective treatment of high blood pressure is a key reason for the accelerated decline in the death rates for stroke.
  • Cigarette smoking — cigarette smoking is a risk factor for stroke.  The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damages the neurovascular system in many ways. 
  • 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.
  • Carotid or other artery disease — The carotid arteries in the neck supply blood to the brain.  These arteries may be narrowed by fatty deposits from atherosclerosis (plaque buildups in artery walls) and get blocked by a blood clot causing stroke. People with such disease in other arteries of the body are more likely to have diseased brain arteries too, and hence higher risk of stroke.
  • Atrial fibrillation — This heart rhythm disorder raises the risk for stroke.  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 with hearts that work normally.  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 in which the "sickled" red blood cells are less able to carry oxygen to the body's tissues and organs.  These cells also tend to stick to blood vessel walls, which can block arteries to the brain and cause a stroke.
  • High blood cholesterol — People with high blood cholesterol have an increased risk for stroke.  Also, it appears that low HDL (“good”) cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke in men, but more data are needed to verify its effect in women.
  • 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.  
The other, less well-documented risk factors:
  • Socioeconomic factors — there’s some evidence that strokes are more common among low-income people than among more affluent people.
  • Alcohol abuse — Alcohol abuse can lead to multiple medical complications, including stroke.
  • Drug abuse —Drugs that are abused, including cocaine, amphetamines and heroin, have been associated with an increased risk of stroke.

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