Stroke Risk Factors

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Certain medical conditions can increase the likelihood of having a stroke. Knowing these stroke risk factors and working to manage them can help prevent a stroke.

UT Southwestern Medical Center provides stroke prevention services for patients at every stage of health, from those who simply want to know their stroke risk to stroke victims who require treatment to avoid future attacks.

There are two types of risk factors for stroke – those that people can control, and those that can’t be controlled.

Controllable Risks

  • High blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Depression
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  • Carotid artery disease (CAD)
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm)
  • Other heart or vascular conditions

Uncontrollable Risks

  • Age (likelihood of stroke increases with age)
  • Race (African-Americans and Hispanics have higher incidence of stroke)
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Family history of stroke
  • Previous stroke or TIA

Additional Risk Factors for Women

  • History of preeclampsia or eclampsia
  • Migraines (with aura in presence of smoking)
  • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Use of oral contraceptives (in conjunction with smoking and high blood pressure)
  • Atrial fibrillation (in elderly)

Learn more about stroke and heart disease.

Reducing the Risk of Stroke

The more risk factors a person has, the greater the stroke risk. Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable if people understand their personal risk and how to manage it.

Managing controllable risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use, physical activity, and obesity can help reduce some of the other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

UT Southwestern’s cardiologists and neurologists can help patients understand their risks and work to take control of any conditions that increase the risk of stroke.