Who Is at Risk for a Stroke?
Anyone can have a stroke no matter your age, race or gender. But, the chances of having a stroke increase if a person has certain risk factors, or criteria that can cause a stroke. The good news is that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, and the best way to protect yourself and loved ones from stroke is to understand personal risk and how to manage it.
There are two types of risk factors for stroke: controllable and uncontrollable. Controllable risk factors generally fall into two categories: lifestyle risk factors or medical risk factors. Lifestyle risk factors can often be changed, while medical risk factors can usually be treated. Both types can be managed best by working with a doctor, who can prescribe medications and advise on how to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Uncontrollable risk factors include being over age 55, being male, being African American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander, or having a family history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
Controllable Risk Factors:
Controllable Medical Risk Factors
- High Blood Pressure
- Atrial Fibrillation
- High Cholesterol
Controllable Lifestyle Risk Factors
To become more familiar with your personal risk for stroke, the National Stroke Association developed an easy-to-use tool called a Stroke Risk Scorecard. The Scorecard provides an idea of a person's stroke risk. Once the scorecard is completed, discuss the results with a doctor, who will help assess the risk factors and help manage and/or treat any controllable risk factors. Remember: It is important to always take medications as a doctor prescribes to stay on top of stroke prevention.
African Americans and Stroke
One half of all African American women will die from stroke or heart disease.
African Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as Caucasians. The rate of first strokes in African Americans is almost double that of Caucasians, and strokes tend to occur earlier in life for African Americans than Caucasians. Additionally, African American stroke survivors are more likely to become disabled and experience difficulties with daily living and activities.
The statistics are staggering -- in fact, African Americans are more impacted by stroke than any other racial groups within the American population.
Not all of the reasons are clear why African Americans have an increased risk of stroke. Some risk factors play a major role. African Americans have a higher rate of:
High blood pressure: The number one risk factor for stroke, and 1 in 3 African Americans suffer from high blood pressure.
Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher stroke risk.
Sickle cell anemia: The most common genetic disorder amongst African Americans. If sickle-shaped cells block a blood vessel to the brain, a stroke can result.
Smoking: Risk for stroke doubles when you smoke. If you stop smoking today, your stroke risk will immediately begin to decrease.
Obesity: Adopting a lower-sodium (salt), lower-fat diet and becoming more physically active may help lower blood pressure and risk for stroke.
If a person has one or more of these risk factors, it's even more important to learn about stroke symptoms and response and the lifestyle and medical changes that can be made to prevent a stroke.
Common stroke symptoms seen in both men and women:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg -- especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Women may report unique stroke symptoms:
- Sudden face and limb pain
- Sudden hiccups
- Sudden nausea
- Sudden general weakness
- Sudden chest pain
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Sudden palpitations