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Risk Factors


Some stroke risk factors are not controllable, but it's important to know if you are at an even greater risk for stroke.

blood pressure

A stroke can happen to anyone, but risk of stroke increases with age. After the age of 55, stroke risk doubles for every decade a person is alive.

Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD)

FMD is a medical disorder in which some of the arteries that carry blood throughout the body do not develop as they should. Fibrous tissue grows in the walls of the arteries, causing them to narrow. As a result, blood flow through the arteries decreases.

Hole in the Heart:
Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

Strokes and TIAs can occur without any obvious risk factors because they are caused by a "hole" in the heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). About one in five people in the U.S. has a PFO. Many don't know it until a medical condition like a stroke or TIA occurs. PFOs often have no symptoms but they may increase the risk for stroke and TIA.

Family History

If a family member has had a stroke, everyone in the family has a higher risk of stroke.

Previous stroke or TIA

After experiencing a stroke, preventing a recurrent stroke from happening is critical. About 5 to 14 percent of the people who have a stroke this year will have a second one. Within the next five years, stroke will recur in 24 percent of female stroke survivors and 42 percent of male survivors. Stroke prevention is also important to those who have experienced transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). TIAs are brief episodes of stroke-like symptoms that can last from a few minutes to 24 hours, but usually cause no permanent damage or disability. TIAs are serious warning signs of an impending stroke. Up to 40 percent of people who experience a TIA are expected to have a stroke.


African-Americans have twice the risk of stroke when compared to Caucasians. Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders also have higher risk than Caucasians.


Women suffer more strokes each year than men do, mainly because women live longer than men do and stroke occurs more often at older ages. Annually about 55,000 more women than men have strokes, but at younger ages, stroke incidence is higher in men than in women. Additionally, women are two times more likely to die of a stroke than of breast cancer.

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