Anyone can have a stroke, although there are some things that make you more at risk than others. It’s important to know what the risk factors are and do what you can to reduce your risk.
Risk factors you can't change
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.
If you are South Asian, black African or black Caribbean you are at a higher risk of stroke than other people in the UK. It isn’t completely understood why this is, but it’s probably connected to the fact that you are more likely to have conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.
If a close relative (parent, grandparent, brother or sister) has had a stroke, your risk is likely to be higher.
Certain genetic conditions can cause strokes. Sickle cell disease, for example, is a genetic disorder that affects your red blood cells and makes them more likely to block your blood vessels.
None of these factors mean that you will necessarily have a stroke, but it’s important to be aware of them and do what you can about the factors you can change
Risk factors you can change
There are many risk factors for stroke that can be changed. With simple checks your GP can help to identify whether you have these risks and help you to make the changes necessary to reduce your risk of stroke.
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
Risk factors for women
There are some other factors that can increase the risk of stroke in women:
- High levels of the female hormone oestrogen can make your blood more likely to clot. Your oestrogen levels rise naturally when you are pregnant, but there are also hormone treatments that will cause it to rise, such as contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Generally the risk of stroke due to pregnancy or hormone treatments is low, but if you’re concerned, or have any other risk factors, make sure you talk to your GP about it.
- Some studies have shown that women who have certain types of migraines are at a slightly higher risk of having a stroke.