Causes and Risk Factors
Strokes are caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. There are many
risk factors that can increase your chances of having a stroke. Some of
these factors are a result of lifestyle choices, while others may be factors
that cannot be controlled.
Lifestyle risk factors for stroke include:
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Low levels of exercise and physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
Medical risk factors for stroke may be managed through medication or other
treatments, and include:
- High blood pressure (above 120/80 mm/Hg)
- Atrial fibrillation (A-fib)
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- Pregnancy, use of hormonal birth control, or other estrogen therapies
- Congenital heart disease
Other risk factors for stroke include:
Personal or family history. Having a personal or family history of stroke or cardiovascular disease
may increase your stroke risk.
Increased age. People age 55 or older double their risk of a stroke every decade.
Race. African-Americans have a higher risk of stroke compared to other races.
Sex. Men are at an increased risk of stroke at a younger age compared to women.
Women are more likely to have a more severe stroke at a later age and
are at an increased risk of serious disability or death from strokes when
they do occur.
Each year, 780,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke. Every 40
seconds someone in the U.S. suffers from stroke and on average, every
three to four minutes someone dies from a stroke. Stroke is the leading
cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of adult death.