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Risk Factors for Stroke that Can be Changed
  • high blood pressure -- The most important controllable risk factor for brain attack is controlling high blood pressure. 
  • heart disease -- Heart disease is the second most important risk factor for stroke, and the major cause of death among survivors of stroke. 
  • cigarette smoking -- The use of oral contraceptives, especially when combined with cigarette smoking, greatly increases stroke risk. 
  • history of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) -- A person who has had one (or more) TIA is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who has not had a TIA. 
  • high red blood cell count -- A moderate increase in the number of red blood cells thickens the blood and makes clots more likely, thus increasing the risk for stroke. 
  • high blood cholesterol and lipids -- High blood cholesterol and lipids increase the risk for stroke.
  • lack of exercise, physical inactivity -- Lack of exercise and physical inactivity increases the risk for stroke.
  • obesity -- Excess weight increases the risk for stroke.
  • excessive alcohol use -- More than two drinks per day raises blood pressure, and binge drinking can lead to stroke.
  • drug abuse (certain kinds) -- Intravenous drug abuse carries a high risk of stroke from cerebral embolisms (blood clots). Cocaine use has been closely related to strokes, heart attacks, and a variety of other cardiovascular complications. Some of them, even among first-time cocaine users, have been fatal.
Risk Factors for Stroke that Cannot be Changed
  • age -- For each decade of life after age 55, the chance of having a stroke more than doubles. 
  • gender -- Men have about a 19 percent greater chance of stroke than women. 
  • race -- African-Americans have a much higher risk of death and disability from a stroke than Caucasians, in part because the African-American population has a greater incidence of high blood pressure. 
  • diabetes -- Diabetes is strongly linked with high blood pressure and, although diabetes is a treatable condition, increases a person's risk for stroke. 
  • history of prior stroke -- The risk of stroke for someone who has already had one is many times that of a person who has not had a stroke. 
  • heredity/genetics -- The chance of stroke is greater in people who have a family history of stroke.
Other Risk Factors to Consider
  • where a person lives -- Strokes are more common among people living in the southeastern United States than in other areas. This may be due to regional differences in lifestyle, race, cigarette smoking, and diet. 
  • temperature, season, and climate -- Stroke deaths occur more often during periods of extreme temperatures. 
  • socioeconomic factors -- There is some evidence that strokes are more common among low-income people than among more affluent people.

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