A family history of stroke or TIA is a strong risk factor for stroke.
Smoking. People who smoke a pack a day have almost two and a half times the risk for stroke as nonsmokers. Smoking increases both hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke risk. The risk for stroke may remain elevated for as long as 14 years after quitting, so the earlier one quits the better.
Diet. Unhealthy diet (saturated fat, high sodium) can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity, which are all risk factors for stroke.
Physical Inactivity. Lack of regular exercise can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and poor circulation, which increase the risk of stroke.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Alcohol abuse, including binge drinking, increases the risk of stroke. Drug abuse, particularly with cocaine or methamphetamine, is a major factor of stroke in young adults. Anabolic steroids, used for body-building and sports enhancement, also increase stroke risk.
Heart and Vascular Diseases
Heart disease and stroke are closely tied for many reasons. People who have one heart or vascular condition (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, peripheral artery disease) are at increased risk for developing other related conditions. Heart and vascular diseases that increase stroke risk include:
Prior Stroke. A history of a prior stroke or TIA significantly increases the risk for a subsequent stroke. People who have had at least one TIA are 10 times more likely to have a stroke than those who have not had a TIA.
Prior Heart Attack. People who have had a heart attack are at increased risk of stroke.
High Blood Pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) of contributes to about 70% of all strokes. People with hypertension have up to 10 times the normal risk of stroke, depending on the severity of the blood pressure in the presence of other risk factors. Hypertension is also an important cause of so-called silent cerebral infarcts, or blockages, in the blood vessels in the brain (mini-strokes) that may predict major stroke. Controlling blood pressure is extremely important for stroke prevention.
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.