10 Risk Factors and Warning Signs of a Stroke

According to an American Heart Association survey, young adults have a disconnect about how their lifestyle choices affect their chances of stroke, a leading cause of death and disability in the United States.

More than 1,200 adults between the ages of 18 and 44 were surveyed on their thoughts about health and stroke risk.

Of the 18-24 year-old group, most expressed desire to live a healthy and long life — 98 years was their average desire — but one-third of those said they don’t think their unhealthy behaviors today will affect their risk of stroke later. Eighteen percent couldn’t even name one stroke risk factor.

Ralph Sacco, M.D., neurologist and president of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, said in a press release:

“This survey shows the dangerous disconnect that many young Americans have about how their behaviors affect their risks for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Starting healthy behaviors at a young age is critical to entering middle age in good shape. The investment you make in your health now will have a large payoff as you age. We want everyone – especially young people – to strive to avoid stroke, which can affect anyone at any age.”

The survey also indicated that people become more aware of their overall health as they age:

  • In the 35-44 year-old group, 22 percent were not worried about cardiovascular diseases.
  • In the 18-24 year-old group, 43 percent said they weren’t concerned.

Lifestyle Choices to Lower Stroke Risk

Healthy lifestyle choices can lower risk of a first stroke by almost 80 percent, according to American Heart Association/American Stroke Association guidelines. Those choices include:

Next: Stroke Risk Factors and Warning Signs

Risk Factors for Stroke

  • Age: The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55. While stroke is common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have strokes.
  • Heredity/Race: Your stroke risk is greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke. African-Americans have a higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians.
  • Gender: Stroke is more common in men than in women, but more than half of total stroke deaths occur in women.
  • Health Conditions: Having high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell disease, or high blood cholesterol raise your risk of stroke.
  • Prior Stroke, TIA, or Heart Attack: The risk of stroke is many times greater for someone who has already had one. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage, and if you’ve had one or more TIAs, you’re 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn’t. If you’ve had a heart attack, you’re at higher risk of having a stroke, too.

Warning Signs of Stroke

  • sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If you, or someone near you should experience these symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1.

Facts About Stroke

  • About 795,000 Americans each year have a stroke.
  • Stroke kills more than 137,000 people a year, making it the third leading cause of death, after diseases of the heart and cancer.
  • About 40 percent of stroke deaths occur in males, and 60 percent in females.

Source: American Stroke Association

Do you have any personal stories about suffering from stroke? How has it affected your life? Tell us below in the comments!

Photo: iStockphoto

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of “No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis,” a memoir. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Author’s Guild, and a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

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Fi T.
Fi T.2 years ago

Keep paying attention to our body

Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Siti R.
Siti R.2 years ago

there are also "mini-strokes" that go undetected for years and then showed as dementia. my mum is one such case.

Pat A.
Pat A.2 years ago


Petalia G.
Petalia Green2 years ago

Good information presented to be easily absorbed and remembered - thank you!

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia2 years ago

Thanks for the information, but why did the race factors only list black and white people?

Magdika Cecilia Perez

thank you

Carol M.
caroline m.2 years ago

Thanks good information.

Veronica C.
Veronica C.2 years ago

I had a 2 TIA'S and i just turned 50. The first one I had in Feb and I was given medicine and I skipped a few times taking the pills and had another in the same place 6 months later. I now take my pills all the time. I did read 75% of strokes can be prevented so I feel I may live another 35 years.

Aaron B.
Aaron Bouchard2 years ago