Stroke Risk Factors



A stroke happens when there is a loss of blood flow to part of the brain. Then brain cells cannot get the oxygen and nutrients they need from blood, and they start to die within a few minutes. This can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.

There are two types of strokes:

  • Ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. This is the most common type; about 80% of strokes are ischemic.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain

Another condition that’s similar to a stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA). It’s sometimes called a “mini-stroke.” 

Certain factors can raise your risk of a stroke. The major risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure. This is the primary risk factor for a stroke.
  • Diabetes.
  • Heart diseases. Atrial fibrillation and other heart diseases can cause blood clots.
  • Smoking. When you smoke, you damage your blood vessels and raise your blood pressure.
  • A personal or family history of stroke or TIA.
  • Age. Your risk of stroke increases as you get older.
  • Race and ethnicity. African Americans have a higher risk of stroke.
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