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Understanding Causes of Stroke and Stroke Risk Factors


The two primary causes of stroke are when there is a blockage in your artery (known as an ischemic stroke), or when a blood vessel leaks or bursts (known as a hemorrhagic stroke). It is important to understand stroke risk factors in order to properly prevent or diagnosis the onset of a stroke. 

Ischemic strokes are the most common cause of strokes, and they occur when a blockage in an artery limits the blood flow to your brain. These blockages often occur in the heart or neck, and may be caused by arteriosclerosis or an abnormal heart rhythm.

Hemorrhagic strokes, while less common, are equally as dangerous. The hemorrhagic causes of stroke typically include abnormally high blood pressure, aneurysms, or a congenital tangle of blood vessels in the brain.

Understanding Stroke Risk Factors

Risk Factors for Stroke

The risk of stroke increases with age, but there are preventative measures that can be taken to ward off the risk factors for stroke. These include improving your health through lifestyle changes, and knowing your medical history for controlled medical prevention and awareness. By understanding the causes of stroke and limiting your exposure to stroke risk factors, you can prevent the onset of this serious medical emergency.

Health/Medical Risk Factors:

  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight
  • Having unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • Having atrial fibrillation
  • Having had a heart attack
  • Having narrowed arteries
  • Having diabetes
  • Having had a previous stroke
  • Having had a previous episode of transient ischemic attack

Lifestyle Stroke Risk Factors:

  • Exercise rarely
  • Eat salty, fried or greasy foods
  • Smoke tobacco
  • Have more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day

Age and Family History Risk Factors

  • Over age 60
  • A parent, brother or sister has had a stroke

Metabolic Syndrome Raises Risk

Any of the factors above puts you at increased risk of stroke, but having three or more of certain risk factors (a condition called metabolic syndrome) multiplies your risk.

These risk factors work in tandem with the causes of stroke, and include: too much weight around your waist, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. If you have any of these stroke risk factors, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.