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What stroke risk factors cannot be controlled or changed?

Age is the single most important risk factor for stroke overall. Stroke rates steadily increase after age 55. There is also a likely genetic component to stroke, which is an area of active research. The good news is that there are many known modifiable stroke risk factors. The most important one is high blood pressure. Others include diabetes, atrial fibrillation, carotid artery disease, high cholesterol, obesity/physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use.

There are several "non-modifiable" risk factors for stroke. One is age—as one ages, stroke risk increases. Another is gender: overall, men have more strokes than women. Low birth weight increases the risk of stroke. Certain racial and ethnic groups have a higher risk of stroke, especially Blacks in the United States. Finally, certain rare genetic conditions predispose to stroke, such as CADASIL and Fabry disease.

Here are some risk factors for stroke that cannot be controlled or changed:

  • Age: Stroke can occur at any age, but the older you are, the greater your risk.
  • Family history and race: Your risk is greater if a parent, grandparent or sibling has had a stroke. African Americans and Hispanic Americans have a higher risk of stroke than whites. This is partly due to higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Prior stroke: Someone who has had a stroke is at higher risk of having another one.

The following risk factors of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) are beyond your control. Because they raise your risk of stroke, having several of them underscores the urgency of reducing the factors you can.

  • Age: People over 55 are at higher risk of stroke than are younger people.
  • Race: African Americans have a higher risk of stroke.
  • Gender: Men are at higher risk of stroke, but women are more likely to die of one.

Family medical history: Your risk of stroke is higher if someone in your immediate family has had a stroke. Genetic factors influence blood clotting and the development of atherosclerosis and hypertension, all of which affect the risk of stroke. Aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations, two conditions that cause hemorrhagic strokes clearly have a genetic basis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.