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  • Stroke Program

    Stroke Experts in Phoenix, Arizona

    Stroke Risk Factors

    A physical trait or behavior that increases the chance that you will have a stroke is called a risk factor for stroke. Some risk factors are modifiable, meaning they can be reduced or eliminated by changes in behavior or other precautions. Other risk factors for stroke are unmodifiable, meaning that there is not anything you can do to eliminate them.

    Modifiable Risk Factors for Stroke

    Heart Disease

    Heart disease can make it more likely that a blood clot will develop in your heart and travel to your brain, causing a stroke.

    Lower Your Risk

    • Take heart medications prescribed by your doctor.
    • Anti-clotting medication is commonly used to reduce the risk of stroke by reducing the formation of blood clots in the heart.

    High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

    High blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher) is the most common risk factor for stroke. Because it may produce no symptoms before causing a stroke or heart attack, high blood pressure is often called the silent killer. It contributes to stroke by causing atherosclerosis (a condition in which plaque forms on the lining of blood vessels) and by causing brain arteries to rupture.

    Lower Your Risk

    • Take blood pressure medications prescribed by your doctor.
    • Limit your intake of salt.
    • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
    • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

    Cigarette Smoking

    Nicotine increases the risk of stroke. Smoking is an especially strong risk factor for disease of the carotid and coronary arteries.

    Lower Your Risk

    • Quit smoking if you already smoke.
    • Do not start smoking or using any tobacco or nicotine-containing products.


    The high blood sugar caused by diabetes contributes to atherosclerosis and increases the risk of stroke.

    Lower Your Risk

    • Follow your doctor’s recommendations for managing your diabetes.
    • Close control of blood sugar is an important and effective way to reduce the risk of stroke.

    Alcohol Consumption

    Excessive alcohol intake or binge drinking triples the risk of stroke.

    Lower Your Risk

    • Reduce your consumption of alcohol.
    • Some studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption (2 drinks per day or less) may actually be beneficial in reducing the risk of stroke in some individuals.
      • Consult your doctor to see if your body is able to tolerate the consumption of alcohol.

    High Cholesterol

    Cholesterol is a fatty substance, manufactured by the liver and obtained from food. It is deposited in the walls of arteries where it reduces blood flow by narrowing the vessel and causing the wall to become less flexible, a condition called atherosclerosis. Laboratory blood tests determine levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is the “bad” cholesterol, and the lower it is the better. HDL is the “good” cholesterol, and the higher it is the better. An imbalance between HDL and LDL doubles your risk of stroke.

    Lower Your Risk

    • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
    • Reduce your intake of red meat and dairy products.
    • Consult your physician about medication that may substantially help lower cholesterol levels.


    Individuals who are more than 20 pounds overweight or more than 10% over their ideal weight are as much as 10 times as likely to develop diabetes, 2-3 times as likely to have severe atherosclerosis, and several times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who are not.

    Lower Your Risk

    • Control your weight by keeping it within 20 pounds of your ideal weight for your body type and height.
      • Weight is better controlled by losing a pound or two per week.
      • “Crash” diets are not recommended.
      • An exercise program combined with a sensible diet is the most effective way to lose weight.
      • Consult your physician for the best advice based on your individual circumstances.

    Unmodifiable Risk Factors for Stroke


    The risk of stroke increases steadily with age and increases significantly after age 50.

    Family History of Stroke

    Individuals with a family history of stroke have 5 times the risk of developing a stroke.

    Personal History of Stroke

    A person who has had a transient ischemic attack (TIA)—stroke-like symptoms that resolve within minutes or hours—is significantly more likely to have a stroke within the first year after experiencing symptoms. If you experience symptoms of a stroke, seek medical attention immediately.


    The risk of strokes among individuals of African descent is somewhat higher than among other groups. Some studies have shown that individuals of Hispanic descent have an increased risk of hemorrhagic strokes.


    In younger age groups strokes occur more frequently in men, but in older age groups stroke occurs more frequently in women.

    Learn More about Risk Factors for Stroke

    For non-urgent inquiries about stroke and the risk factors for stroke, please call (602) 406-7777.

    Request an Appointment with a Stroke Specialist

    Call (602) 406-7777

    About Barrow Neurological Institute
    Since our doors opened as a regional specialty center in 1962, we have grown into one of the premier destinations in the world for neurology and neurosurgery. Our experienced, highly skilled, and comprehensive team of neurological specialists can provide you with a complete spectrum of care–from diagnosis through outpatient neurorehabilitation–under one roof. Barrow Neurological Institute: Discover. Educate. Heal.