Additional Factors That May Be Linked to Higher Stroke Risks

Brief Explanation of How COVID19 Impacts the Whole Body

Dr. Mitch Elkind, American Heart Association president and a stroke neurologist at Columbia University, briefly explains in this video how the virus that causes COVID-19 can impact the whole body, including the heart and brain.

Several additional factors may increase your risk of stroke:


An increase in blood clot formation is a complication of COVID-19 that can result in stroke. Read more COVID-19 resources.

Geographic Location

Strokes are more common in Southeastern states — the “stroke belt” states. Check out your state and consider how it supports healthy habits.

Advisory calls for bridging inequities in rural health triggerflicks/Moment, Getty Images

There is a three-year life expectancy gap between rural and urban populations. Rural areas see higher rates of tobacco use, physical inactivity and obesity, which have given rise to higher rates of diabetes and hypertension. In turn, rural communities have higher death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke and higher maternal mortality rates due in part to cardiovascular deaths.

Breaking down health care barriers for these residents is an inequity problem that needs innovative approaches, according to a new advisory from the American Heart Association.

Socioeconomic Factors

Strokes may be more common among those with lower incomes. One reason may be due to higher smoking and obesity rates. Another reason may be that access to quality health care is often more limited among those with lower incomes. Support quality health care for all

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse can lead to medical complications, including stroke. If you drink alcohol, we recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for non-pregnant women. See recommendations. Pregnant women should not drink alcohol. Speak with your doctor or a local support group if you need help overcoming addiction to alcohol.

Drug Abuse

The most commonly abused drugs, including cocaine, amphetamines and heroin, have been associated with an increased risk of stroke. Strokes caused by drug abuse often occur in a younger population. Steer clear of potentially addicting substances and see a doctor if you need support to overcome substance abuse.

Sleep Habits

Recent studies are clarifying the reasons that well-rested people tend to have lower heart disease and stroke risks. Adopt habits that promote healthy sleep patterns.

Sleep disorders plague stroke survivors – and put them at risk Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision, Getty Images

Sleep problems, particularly sleep apnea – when breathing repeatedly stops and starts during the night – are considered independent risk factors for stroke. Because of the high prevalence of sleep problems among stroke survivors, the AHA recommends assessing sleep issues to prevent further strokes and TIAs.

Sleep problems – including insomnia, troubled breathing while asleep, restless legs in the evening and unconscious leg movements – are more common among stroke survivors than the general public, according to the study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke