A stroke can happen to anyone but there are some things that increase your risk of a stroke. It’s important to know what the risk factors are and do what you can to reduce your risk.
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.
There are lots of things you can do to reduce your risk. With simple checks, your GP can help you understand your risk of stroke and support you to make the changes necessary to reduce your risk.
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 like 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 simple 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.
If you are of South Asian origins, or from an African or Caribbean background, you are at a higher risk of stroke than other people in the UK. People in these groups can be more likely to have conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure which can raise your stroke risk.
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.
For more information about women's risk factors, read our guide 'Women and stroke'.
Find out more
If you need more information then you can download our 'What can I do to reduce my risk?' information guide for free.