Risk Factors for Stroke

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to have a stroke with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of having a stroke. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for stroke include:

Poor Diet

A diet that is high in trans fat, saturated fat, and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber increases your risk of having a stroke.


Smokers are at higher risk of stroke than people who do not smoke or quit smoking.

Lack of Physical Activity

People who do not get moderate exercise regularly are at increased risk of having a stroke.

Medical Conditions

The following medical conditions increase your risk of having a stroke:


Your risk of having a stroke increases as you age.


Men are at higher risk of stroke than women are earlier in life, but women’s risk catches up to men’s risk approximately ten years after menopause.

Genetic Factors

Although your risk of stroke is higher if a family member has had a stroke, this risk factor is minimal in relation to the risk factors listed above.

Ethnic Background

African Americans are more likely to have hemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes. This may be due to a higher incidence of high blood pressure among African Americans. This risk is also minimal in relation to the risk factors listed above.


Kasper DL, Braunwald E, Fauci A, Hauser S, Longo D, Jameson JL. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 16th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2004.

Stroke (acute management). Dynamed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/default.php .

Last reviewed May 2007 by J. Thomas Megerian, MD, PhD, FAAP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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