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Neuroscience Institute

Brain and Spine

General Content

Lower Your Risk for Stroke

Some things that make stroke more likely are out of our control. But many risks can be managed or even eliminated. In fact, up to 80% of strokes are preventable through risk factor management.

Risk Factors for Stroke That Can be Changed

High blood pressure

The leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor. Know your blood pressure and take your medication as prescribed by your health care professional.

High cholesterol

This increases the risk that an artery leading to the brain will become clogged, resulting in a stroke. Diabetes: Work with your doctor to manage diabetes through diet, exercise and medication.

Hardening of arteries

An artery in your neck damaged by a fatty build-up of plaque may become blocked, causing a stroke.

Circulation problems

Those with circulation problems such as peripheral artery disease have a higher risk of carotid artery disease, which raises their risk of stroke.

Transient ischemic attacks (TIA)

Sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” a TIA occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery for a short period of time. Symptoms of TIA are the same as stroke and can last minutes to hours. People who have one or more TIAs are much more likely to eventually have a major stroke, so seek prompt medical attention for even the slightest symptoms in order to reduce your risk.

Tobacco use

Don’t smoke or use other forms of tobacco. Smoking doubles your risk of stroke.

Lack of physical activity

Being inactive or obese can increase the likelihood of other stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Include exercise in your daily routine.

Atrial fibrillation

This disorder causes the heart’s upper chambers to quiver instead of beating effectively, which can let the blood pool and clot. A stroke can result from a clot breaking off, entering the bloodstream and lodging in an artery leading to the brain.

Risk Factors You Can’t Control

Increasing age

Stroke affects people of all ages, but the general risk goes up as we grow older.


In the U.S., stroke is now more common in women than men. About 60 percent of stroke deaths happen to women.

Heredity and race

People whose blood relations had a stroke have higher risk of stroke themselves. African Americans have higher risk of death and disability from stroke than whites. Hispanic Americans are also at higher risk of stroke.

Prior stroke

People who have had a stroke are at higher risk of having another

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