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Stroke Risk Factors

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability and a leading cause of death in the United States. But it is something that can be prevented by taking steps to control your risk factors. Your first step in prevention is to understand those risks - both those you can and cannot control - and taking proactive steps to minimize them. Then, schedule an appointment for a wellness checkup with your SSM Health primary care provider. They’ll help you create a plan to maintain your health in the safest and most effective way possible.

Stroke Risk Factors

Stroke can occur at any age, but your chances of stroke do increase with certain risk factors. The major risk factors for stroke include:

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is the main risk factor for stroke. Your doctor will regularly monitor your blood pressure every time you visit. During these visits, speak with them about the ideal range for your blood pressure and whether medication is needed to control it.


If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than someone without. Making sure your diabetes is well-managed can help reduce this risk.


Smoking also poses a negative problem. It increases blood pressure and damages your blood vessels, making you more likely to have a stroke. If you’re having trouble quitting, talk to your doctor about how we can support you.

Heart Disease

Coronary artery disease, heart disease and atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots that lead to stroke. Taking steps to prevent heart disease can also reduce your stroke risk.

Age & Gender

Stroke affects people of all ages, but your risk does increase as you age, especially after 55. In most age groups, more men than women have strokes, but more women die from stroke.

Race & Ethnicity

African Americans and Hispanic Americans have a higher risk of death and disability from stroke.


Family history of stroke increases your risk.

History of Previous Stroke or TIA

If you already have had a stroke, you are at a higher risk of having a another one. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are also a strong warning sign for future major strokes.

In addition, other risk factors include:

  • Use of certain medications, like oral contraceptives and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Stress and depression

If you’d like to learn more about your risk for stroke, take our free Stroke Risk Assessment. Take these results to your SSM Health primary care provider and discuss them. We can help you make necessary healthy lifestyle changes to take control of your health and reduce your risk of stroke.

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