Uncontrollable risk factors

Some risk factors for stroke – such as diet and physical activity – are within our grasp to change if we want to reduce our risk of experiencing a stroke. But there are also risk factors that we can’t do anything about, such as being older than 55 years or our genetic makeup.

Below, we will take a look at some factors that we know are correlated with a higher than average risk of experiencing a stroke.


stroke oddsA stroke can happen at any age, but age does have a big impact on your statistical risk of experiencing a stroke. Part of this is simply that aging blood vessels become more susceptible to a stroke. Then, there is of course also the issue of certain lifestyle factors finally “catching up” with us as we age.

Data from the United States show that for each decade a person is alive after the age of 55, the risk of experiencing a stroke doubles.


Each year, there are more female stroke patients than men, but this is largely due to the fact that women live longer than men. To put it bluntly, men are more likely to die from something else before they reach the age where the risk of experiencing a stroke becomes very high. So, while it is strictly speaking correct to say that being female increases the risk of experiencing a stroke, that statement doesn’t paint the full picture.

At younger ages, strokes are actually more common in men than in women.

Fatal strokes

In the United States, over 130,000 people die from strokes each year. About 60% of these fatalities are women.

A close relative having a stroke

If a parent, grandparent or sibling suffered from a stroke or heart attack at an early age, you are statistically more likely to experience a stroke in your lifetime. This is probably due to a combination of genetic factors and lifestyle factors.

Race & Ethnicity

Data from the United States show that African Americans have twice the risk of experiencing a stroke compared to the average for the population as whole. This is at least partly due to there being a higher incidence of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure within the African American subset of the population.