Anyone can have a stroke
Many people think that strokes only happen to older people but stroke can strike anyone at any time.
While most people who have a stroke are older, younger people can have strokes too, including children. One in four strokes in the UK happens to people of working age.
Main risk factors for stroke
The largest number of people who have strokes are aged over 55 and the risk increases as you get older. This is because our arteries naturally become narrower and harder as we get older.
Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of stroke. These include:
An important way to reduce your risk of stroke is to find out if you have any of these conditions and work with your doctor to manage them.
The way we live has a big impact on our risk of stroke. Things such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and eating unhealthy foods can damage your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure and make your blood more likely to clot.
There are lots of changes you can make to your lifestyle that can reduce your risk of stroke.
If a close relative (parent, grandparent, brother or sister) has had a stroke, your risk is likely to be higher.
Strokes happen more often to people from African and Caribbean families, as well as people from South Asian countries. If you are from one of these groups, you are more likely to have some risk factors for stroke such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Risk factors for women
Some risk factors are specific to women.
High levels of the female hormone oestrogen can make your blood more likely to clot, so women with risk factors for stroke may not be able to use contraceptive pills containing oestrogen. Overall, the risks are very low, as long as your other risks are low. If you are concerned about using the pill, or you want to find out more about your risk of a stroke, speak to your GP.
During pregnancy, health conditions like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes can raise your risk of a stroke. These conditions should be picked up and treated as part of routine ante-natal checks. If you have any worries during pregnancy, speak to your midwife or GP straight away.
Migraine and stroke
Migraines have not been shown to cause stroke, but if you have migraine with aura - you have a very slightly higher risk of stroke.