Stroke has many risk factors, including health conditions and lifestyle habits. Understanding the different risk factors for a stroke can help prevent one from occurring.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 40 seconds, a person in the United States has a stroke.

This article will cover the risk factors for a stroke.

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The following lifestyle factors can increase the risk of stroke.

A lack of physical activity

If people do not exercise, they may develop health conditions that increase the risk of stroke, such as:

Learn 20 cardio exercises to do at home with minimal equipment, from beginner to advanced.

Less healthy eating habits

To help lower the risk of stroke, a person should avoid eating a diet that is high in:

Learn about 7-day healthful eating meal plans.

High stress levels

A 2022 study found that people with high blood pressure and persistently high levels of psychological stress had an increased risk of experiencing their first stroke or first ischemic stroke.

The authors state that they did not find a significant association between stress and hemorrhagic stroke.

Learn more about how to manage stress and anxiety:


Smoking can increase a person’s risk of stroke by 12% for every 5 cigarettes they smoke per day.

Tobacco smoke contains many harmful chemicals. According to the CDC, tobacco use increases the risk of stroke in the following ways:

  • Smoking can cause damage to the blood vessels and heart.
  • Nicotine can raise a person’s blood pressure.
  • Carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry.

Learn more about how to quit smoking:

Drinking too much alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can raise a person’s blood pressure and increase the levels of triglycerides in the blood. This can increase the risk of stroke.

The CDC suggests that females should not consume more than one alcoholic drink per day and males should not consume more than two per day.

Learn more about how to stop drinking too much alcohol:

Obesity has associations with higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, and another type of cholesterol called triglycerides.

It can also:

  • decrease levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which people sometimes call “good” cholesterol
  • increase blood pressure
  • increase the risk of diabetes

Learn more about obesity and how to reach or maintain a healthy weight:

The American Heart Association states that most people who have had a stroke also have high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure can damage the arteries and may cause them to clog or burst more easily.

A typical blood pressure level is 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

A person may be able to lower their blood pressure through lifestyle habits such as exercising regularly.

Learn more about how to lower blood pressure:

In addition to monitoring their blood pressure, a person should ask a healthcare professional to check their blood cholesterol levels.

A person with a total cholesterol level above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or an LDL level above 100 mg/dL has a condition called hyperlipidemia.

A person with high cholesterol is at risk of buildup in their arteries called plaque. As plaque builds over time, it can reduce the space inside the arteries. Without treatment, this can block the blood flow from the heart to the brain, causing a stroke.

Learn more about how to lower cholesterol:

Heart conditions such as coronary artery disease can increase a person’s risk of stroke. This is because plaque can build up in the arteries, blocking the blood flow to the brain.

Other heart conditions that can increase the risk of stroke include:

  • heart valve defects
  • irregular heartbeat
  • enlarged heart chambers

Learn more about heart health:

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of stroke.

Type 1 diabetes can damage a person’s blood vessels as a result of increased blood glucose.

Many people with type 2 diabetes have other health conditions that can increase their risk of stroke, such as high cholesterol.

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes. However, people with risk factors for type 2 diabetes may be able to prevent it.

Learn about 7 ways to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Although this condition can affect anyone, it typically affects Black children.

The “sickled” shape of red blood cells in people with sickle cell disease means that the cells often clump together. The cells can then form clots, which may block blood vessels.

If a clot moves to the brain, a stroke can occur. This can also damage blood vessels, causing a bleed in the brain.

Learn more about sickle cell disease.

Genetics, family history, age, and sex can all contribute to a person’s risk of stroke, according to the CDC:

  • Age: A stroke can happen at any age, but the risk increases with age. The chance of having a stroke doubles every 10 years after age 55.
  • Sex: Stroke appears to be more common in females. Pregnancy and the use of birth control pills may be contributing factors.
  • Family history and genetics: Genetics may play a role in conditions that contribute to the risk of stroke, such as high blood pressure and sickle cell disease. A person’s family health history can be useful in understanding their risk of stroke.


Black, American Indian, Native American, or Hispanic people are more likely to experience a stroke than white people.

The American Stroke Association states that Black Americans have the highest prevalence of stroke. The reasons are not clear, but two-thirds of Black Americans have at least one risk factor for stroke.

The authors of a 2021 study on the association between race and the prevalence of stroke in Mississippi note that the following factors may play a role:

  • socioeconomic disparities
  • a lack of access to healthcare
  • a lack of access to health insurance

There are many risk factors for experiencing a stroke.

If a person is aware of the risk, they can take action to try to prevent a stroke, such as by making any necessary lifestyle changes and managing health conditions.

A person who is concerned about their risk of stroke should consult a doctor.