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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Risk Factors for Stroke

Are You At Risk for Stroke?

Online Stroke risk assessment gives you information about your risk factors.
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There are a number of conditions that may raise the risk of having a stroke or TIA, and are collectively known as risk factors.

The more risk factors one has, the greater the chances of having a stroke. Some risk factors may be controlled, while others cannot.

Some major risk factors for stroke are:

  • High blood pressure: this is the primary risk factor for stroke. Any sustained blood pressure at or above 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury, the unit of measurement for blood pressure) is considered high blood pressure. For patients with diabetes or other ailments, blood pressure at or above 130/80 mmHg is considered high
  • Smoking: smoking raises blood pressure and damages blood vessels, and may reduce the levels of oxygen to the cells of the body 
  • Diabetes: the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke more than doubles in individuals with diabetes
  • Heart disease: many forms of heart disease increase the risk of formation of blood clots that can cause stroke
  • Brain aneurysm or AVMs: these increase the risk of stroke; AVMs may not be detected until a rupture occurs
  • Age and gender: risk goes up with age. Younger men and older women are likelier to die from strokes 
  • Race and ethnicity: African American and Native American adults are at higher risk of stroke than Caucasian, Hispanic, or Asian American adults
  • Family or personal history: having a stroke increases the risk of having another, as does a family history or stroke or TIA
  • Medical conditions such as sickle cell anemia, vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels): these and other bleeding disorders increase the risk of stroke

There are a number of lifestyle risk factors that an individual can control, including:

Alcohol consumption Cholesterol levels
Drug abuse Unhealthy diet
Lack of exercise Obesity
Stress Depression


Adopting a healthy lifestyle may help reduce risk of stroke.

Risk Factors for Women

In addition to the traditional stroke risk factors a woman may have, there are also unique risk factors for women, including:

  • Taking birth control pills: birth control pills can nearly double the risk of stroke, particularly in women over the age of 35 years 
  • Pregnancy: a woman’s risk of stroke increases during even normal pregnancy because of changes in blood pressure and stress on the heart
  • Hormone replacement therapy: this therapy used to relieve the symptoms of menopause can increase the risk of stroke
  • Thick waist (>35.2 inches) and high blood fat (triglyceride) level (>128 milligrams per liter): may increase the risk of stroke five-fold
  • Migraines: migraines increase the risk of stroke three to six times in women

Women may experience stroke differently than men, and it is important to recognize the unique symptoms of stroke in women.

Contact Us

You can contact the Northwestern Stroke Center at 312-926-5188 or by the external transfer line at 312-926-3321.

Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2013