Many factors can increase your risk of a stroke. Some factors can also increase your chances of having a heart attack. Stroke risk factors include:

Lifestyle risk factors

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Heavy or binge drinking
  • Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines

Potentially treatable risk factors

  • High blood pressure — risk of stroke begins to increase at blood pressure readings higher than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Your doctor will help you decide on a target blood pressure based on your age, whether you have diabetes and other factors.
  • Cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • High cholesterol — a total cholesterol level above 200 milligrams per deciliter (5.2 millimoles per liter).
  • Diabetes.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea — a sleep disorder in which the oxygen level intermittently drops during the night.
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm.

Other risk factors

  • Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack.
  • Being age 55 or older.
  • Race — African-Americans have higher risk of stroke than do people of other races.
  • Gender — Men have a higher risk of stroke than women. Women are usually older when they have strokes, and they are more likely to die of strokes than are men. Also, they may have some risk from some birth control pills or hormone therapies that include estrogen, as well as from pregnancy and childbirth.
Apr. 15, 2014