Health & lifestyle risk factors for stroke

High blood pressure

High blood pressure can stress blood vessel walls by causing thickening and deterioration. These conditions can lead to stroke.

- National Stroke Association fact sheet


Smoking can cause damage to the cells that line blood vessel walls, increase plaque buildup in blood vessels, and increase clot formation - all factors that can lead to the blocking of blood flow to your brain.

- CDC, "Smoking and Heart Disease and Stroke"


Excess glucose in the blood can lead to increased fatty deposits or clots on the insides of the blood vessel walls. These clots can narrow or block the blood vessels in the brain or neck, cutting off the blood supply, stopping oxygen from getting to the brain and causing a stroke.

- National Stroke Association

High cholesterol

High cholesterol can cause plaque buildup in the arteries, causing them to narrow or block completely, which can lead to a stroke by stopping blood flow to the brain.

- National Stroke Association fact sheet

Physical inactivity

Meeting the American Heart Association's physical activity guidelines is associated with a lower risk for stroke.* The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity weekly.

* Stroke Journal, "Trajectories in Leisure-Time Physical Activity and Risk of Stroke in Women in the California Teachers Study"

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) can significantly increase risk of stroke. The heart rhythm disorder can cause pooling and clotting of the blood in the heart's upper chambers, which can then travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

- American Stroke Association

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Age is not a risk factor

People often think of stroke as something that only affects older people. In fact, research shows an increase in stroke rates among young adults. A recent study found that "rates of hospitalizations for acute ischemic stroke increased by nearly 42 percent for men 35-44, while rates for women of the same age group increased by 30 percent over the same time."

Washington Post article on review of Prevalence of Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Strokes in Younger Adults, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).