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Effective Monday, July 19, 2021, the following NOH/OMG office locations will no longer provide on-site blood draws: Westlake, Lorain, Olmsted Falls and Dewhurst. Click here for the nearest lab service location. 

The Stroke Risk Factors You Can and Can't Control

June 25, 2020

In our last post, we discussed the effects and different types of stroke, but this time we’d like to focus on stroke risk factors.

Remember that a stroke can occur when blood flow to the brain is impeded by a blood clot. This is an ischemic stroke. A stroke can also be caused by bleeding in the brain, called a hemorrhagic stroke. There are many blood vessels in your brain, so preventing stroke should always be top of mind. Stroke is the leading cause of long-term adult disability and the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States.

There are many factors that can lead to the development of stroke. While some of them can be changed, controlled or treated, others cannot.

Controllable Risk Factors

Stroke is dangerous and deadly, so it’s important that you control what you can control. Here are several risk factors for stroke that you can modify:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Atrial fibrillation, or heart rhythm disorder
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Sickle cell disease
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity

The American Heart Association offers a stroke quiz so you can take to assess your risk. There is also some additional information on modifiable risk factors.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors Of Stroke

You can’t control some risk factors for stroke. So it’s important you know them:


If your parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke — especially before reaching age 65 — you may be at greater risk.


The likelihood of having a stroke increases with age for both males and females.


African Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do.


Because women live longer than men, women tend to have more strokes than men. Stroke also kills more women than men.

Prior Experience of TIA, Stroke or Heart Attack

If you’re someone who has already had a stroke, you’re at a much higher risk of having another stroke than someone who has never had one. If you’re someone who’s had one or more transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), it is almost 10 times more likely that you will have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn't.

If you have one or more of the risk factors mentioned here for stroke, you should go to a doctor to get a diagnosis. Your doctor will review your medical history and your risk factors. Together you can put together a plan to manage them.

After that, your doctor may also perform diagnostic tests to examine your brain. These tests will show how well your brain is working and getting its blood supply, as well as outline the affected area. There are three kinds of diagnostic tests for stroke, including imaging tests, blood flow tests, and electrical tests, and they are safe and mostly painless.

If you experience any stroke symptoms, call 911 immediately. These symptoms include:

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of your body
  • Trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Acting fast can save lives, and in fact, “FAST” is a word that helps diagnose a stroke in progress so you can help in time.

If you are suffering from ischemic stroke, you will most likely be treated with a clot-buster.

Presently, the most effective clot-busting drug is the tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator. This drug is FDA-approved, and it works best when it is administered within four and a half hours from the onset of the symptoms. tPA and other clot-busters are administered through an intravenous line in the arm, and they are effective in reducing the effects of stroke if they are given properly and promptly.

A blood clot can also be removed through a procedure called thrombectomy. If thrombectomy is performed, the blood clots are removed using a catheter that is threaded up from a blood vessel in the leg into the brain. The clot can be trapped in a stent retriever and pulled out or directly sucked out using an aspiration device.

In addition to controlling your risk factors, there are several other methods for preventing ischemic stroke. They include anticoagulants and antiplatelets, carotid endarterectomy, and angioplasty and stents.

Hemorrhagic stroke is treated with surgical intervention or endovascular procedure.

Because diabetes is so prevalent and is one of the controllable risk factors we mentioned, we hope you’ll download our diabetes infographic to learn all about the risk factors and treatment of diabetes. If you have any concerns related to diabetes, make an appointment with your doctor today.

Diabetes in America