Stroke Risk Factors Not Within Your Control

Doctor in consultation with male patient

Keep in mind that you can’t control some risk factors of stroke:


The likelihood of having a stroke increases with age. Although stroke is more common among the elderly, many 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 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.


Black people have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than white people do. Because of societal barriers and systems that have harmed their health for decades, Black people have a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. For some Hispanic people, the limited availability of Spanish-language health information may hinder 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. Several factors may increase stroke risk for women, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • History of preeclampsia/eclampsia
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Oral contraceptive use (especially when combined with smoking)
  • Post-menopausal hormone therapy
  • Changes in hormonal status

Some stroke factors that seem to be stronger, or occur more often, for women:

  • Migraine with aura
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Psychosocial stress

Be sure to discuss your risk with your health care professional.

Prior Stroke, TIA or Heart Attack

A person with a prior stroke has a much higher risk of having another stroke than someone who has never had one. A person with one or more transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) is almost ten times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn’t. TIAs are smaller, temporary blockages that can produce milder forms of stroke-like symptoms that last under 24 hours. 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 stroke. Heart attacks happen when plaque buildup blocks blood vessels to the heart. Similarly, most strokes occur due to a buildup of plaque that causes blockages in the brain.

Some people with a first stroke or TIA are surprised to find out they have a condition (or conditions) that puts them at risk, like high blood pressure or diabetes. Getting a new diagnosis can be tricky. But with it comes the opportunity to get treatment. And appropriate treatment helps reduce the risk of another stroke.