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Risk Factors continued...

Uncontrollable risk factors:

  • Age: A stroke can happen at any age, even in children, but it becomes more common as people get older. For each decade after age 55, the chance of stroke roughly doubles.    
  • Gender: Strokes are more common in men, but women make up more than half of all stroke deaths.   
  • Race:African-Americans are much more likely to die from strokes than whites, partly because African-Americans have a higher risk of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.  
  • Family history: Stroke risk rises if a person’s parent, grandparent, or sibling has had a stroke or if a family member had a heart attack at an early age. 
  • Previous stroke or heart attack: The risk of a second stroke is much higher if a person has already had a past stroke or heart attack.   
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA): TIA, which is sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” may be a precursor to an ischemic stroke. TIA stems from a temporary blockage of the brain’s blood supply. Symptoms are similar to those of an actual stroke, but usually last only a few minutes or hours, with no lasting effects. But it’s a serious warning sign. Up to 33% of people with “mini-strokes” will go on to have a more severe stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health.  
  • Artery abnormalities: The chance of a hemorrhagic stroke goes up if a person has an aneurysm (a bulge in a weakened area of an artery’s walls) within the skull. Arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal connection between arteries and veins) is another risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke.   
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia:With this medical disorder, some arteries develop improperly. Fibrous tissue grows in artery walls, making them narrower. As a result, blood flow through the arteries is reduced, which can lead to stroke.  
  • Patent foramen ovale (hole in the heart): Typically, this condition has no symptoms, and impacts about 15% to 20% of all people. But a person with a hole, or flap-like opening between the two upper chambers of the heart, faces increased risk of stroke or TIA. A blood clot can pass through this opening, travel to the brain, and cause a stroke. Those with patent foramen ovale might have a stroke without any obvious risk factors.   

If you suspect you're at risk for stroke, or if you have a family history of stroke, talk to your doctor about your medical history and specific concerns. Your doctor can help you manage your risk factors and develop a treatment plan if necessary.

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