Strokes are the number three cause of death in the United States.

But not everyone thinks about strokes as often as they think about high blood pressure or heart attacks. And while those health concerns are incredibly important to think about and address, knowing the risk factors for a stroke can help save lives.

And when it comes to the risk factors for having a stroke, some will present unique challenges because those risk factors are out of our control while it’s easier to monitor other risk factors to reduce the chances you’ll face when it comes to reducing your risk for a stroke.

8 Stroke Risk Factors to Know

Uncontrollable Stroke Risk Factors

1. Age

With age, the risk of a stroke rises. Each decade after the age of 55, the chance of having a stroke doubles. That means that at age 75, you’re four times as likely to have a stroke than you were at 55.

2. Race

Studies show African Americans are twice as likely to have a first-time stroke than Caucasians, even at younger ages. This is mostly due to the fact that African Americans also tend to be more at risk for high blood pressure and obesity.

3. Genetics

If you have a family history of strokes, with either a parent or grandparent having had one, your chances increase of having one yourself.

Certain people inherit a disease called CADASIL (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Sub-cortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy), which can lead to damage in the blood vessel walls in the brain through a genetic mutation.

Be sure to know your family’s medical history so you can be sure to take extra care of your body to help prevent a stroke.

4. Sex/Gender

Women are more likely to suffer from a stroke than men and more women die from them, too. Women have more stroke risk factors than men, taking birth control pills or becoming pregnant.

Talk to your doctor about these stroke risk factors and find out what else may increase your chances of a stroke while learning more about prevention.

Controllable Factors

There are a few factors that may increase the chances of a stroke that are in your control. Be aware of their role in your life and how they affect your health.

stroke risk factors

5. Diet

You could have predicted this one. Maybe the most controllable of the stroke risk factors–your diet. Choosing healthy, whole foods will decrease your risk of stroke because your chances of high blood cholesterol or high blood pressure go down.

Foods high in sodium, cholesterol, or saturated fats can lead to an unhealthy cardiovascular system and result in a stroke, heart disease, or heart attack.

6. High Blood Pressure

This is the leading cause of strokes. High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because it shows no symptoms before it’s almost too late and can be deadly if not taken care of.

Getting your blood pressure checked regularly and speaking with your doctor about solutions to lower blood pressure can greatly decrease your risk of stroke.

7. Smoking

Smoking is a more recent stroke risk factor discovered that highly increases the chance of stroke. The carbon monoxide and nicotine that people inhale from the cigarette smoking can be very damaging to your cardiovascular health.

8. High Blood Cholesterol

Having high blood cholesterol increases your risk for stroke and is easily controllable. You should get your blood work done every other year if you know you have high cholesterol.

If you have not had your cholesterol levels checked, the next time you go to the doctor, have him/her do blood work for you. Men with low HDL, or good cholesterol, are more at risk for a stroke than those with high HDL.

Remember, always talk to your doctor about your private and family medical history so that the best decision is reached to keep you happy and healthy.

By understanding the risk factors related to having a stroke, you can take the right precautions to help reduce your risk.