Uncontrollable Risk Factors

Some risk factors for stroke are simply not controllable. But knowing what they are is still important in determining your overall risk for stroke.

A stroke can happen to anyone, at any time and any age. Stroke risk however, increases with age. After the age of 55, stroke risk doubles for every decade a person is alive.

Women experience more strokes each year than men, mainly because women live longer than men and stroke occurs more often at older ages. By having strokes at an older age, women suffer greater disability after stroke. Women are less aware that they are at a higher risk for stroke and only somewhat knowledgeable about the risk factors themselves. Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer does every year.

Stroke incidence is higher in men at younger ages.

African Americans have twice the risk of stroke, partially because they are more susceptible to high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders also have higher risk of stroke than Caucasians.

Your stroke risk increases if a family member (parent, grandparent, or sibling) has had a stroke or a heart attack at an early age.

After experiencing a stroke, survivors and their families usually concentrate their efforts on rehabilitation and recovery. However, preventing a “recurrent” stroke from happening is also critical. In the U.S. stroke kills more than 130,000 people each year, making it the 5th leading cause of death. About 40 percent of deaths occur in males and 60 percent in females. About one-fourth of the nearly 800,000 strokes that occur each year are recurrent events.

FMD is a medical disorder where some of the arteries that carry blood throughout the body do not develop as they should. Fibrous tissue grows in the wall of the arteries, causing them to narrow. As a result, blood flow through the arteries decreases.

Strokes and TIAs can occur without any obvious risk factors because they are caused by a “hole” in the heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). About 1 in 5 Americans has a PFO. Because PFOs often have no symptoms, many are not aware they have this medical condition, putting them at an increased risk for stroke and TIA. Many PFO-related strokes are called cryptogenic, meaning they have no apparent cause.

Stroke prevention is also important to those who have experienced TIAs. TIAs are brief episodes of stroke-like symptoms that can last from a few minutes to 24 hours, but usually cause no permanent damage or disability. TIAs are serious warning signs of a possible future stroke and must be taken seriously. The risk of stroke within 90 days of a TIA may be as high as 17 percent, with the greatest risk being the first week after the episode.