New or recurrent strokes affect about 780,000 Americans every year. On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. While age is the major risk factor, people who have a stroke are likely to have more than one risk factor.
People most at risk for stroke are older adults, particularly those with high blood pressure, who are sedentary, overweight, smoke, or have diabetes. Older age is also linked with higher rates of post-stroke dementia. Younger people are not immune, however. Many stroke victims are under age 65.
In most age groups except older adults, stroke is more common in men than in women. However, stroke kills more women than men. This may be partly due to the fact that women tend to live longer than men, and stroke is more common among older adults. Women account for about 6 in 10 stroke deaths. For younger women, birth control pills and pregnancy can increase the risk of stroke.
Race and Ethnicity
All minority groups, including Native Americans, Hispanics, and African-Americans, face a significantly higher risk for stroke and death from stroke than Caucasians. African-Americans have twice the risk for first-time stroke as Caucasians. The differences in risk among all groups diminish as people age.
The greatest disparity in risk occurs in young adults. Younger African-Americans are two to three times more likely to experience a stroke than their Caucasian peers and four times more likely to die from one. They also face a higher risk for death from heart disease. African-Americans have a higher prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension than other groups. However, studies suggest that socioeconomic factors also affect these differences.
Review Date: 05/06/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.