Stroke Risk Factors Not Within Your Control

Doctor in consultation with male patient

You can’t control some risk factors for stroke. It's important you know them:


The likelihood of having a stroke increases with age for both males and females. Although stroke is more common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have strokes. Even babies and children can have a stroke.

Family History

If your parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke — especially before reaching age 65 — you may be at greater risk. Sometimes strokes are caused by genetic disorders like CADASIL, which can block blood flow in the brain.


African-Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do. This is partly because Black people have higher risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. For Hispanics, limited English proficiency may hamper efforts to prevent stroke. Access our Spanish resources.


Women have more strokes than men and stroke kills more women than men. Women tend to live longer than men and are older when they have a stroke. Factors that may increase stroke risks for women include pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use (especially when combined with smoking) and post-menopausal hormone therapy. Be sure to discuss your risks with your doctor.

Prior Stroke, TIA or Heart Attack

A person who has had a prior stroke has a much higher risk of having another stroke than a person who has never had one. A person who’s had one or more transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn't. TIAs are smaller, temporary blockages in the brain that can produce milder forms of stroke-like symptoms but may not leave lasting damage. A TIA is a medical emergency. Follow up immediately with a healthcare professional.

If you've had a heart attack, you're at higher risk of having a stroke. A heart attack is caused by plaque buildup that blocks blood vessels to the heart. Similarly, most strokes are caused by a buildup of plaque that cause blockages in the brain.