Who Is at Risk for a Stroke?


Quick Answer

Risk factors for stroke include medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol and diabetes. Lifestyle habits such as tobacco use, obesity, drug use and excessive alcohol consumption also increase the risk for stroke, reports WebMD.

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Full Answer

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the most significant risk factor for stroke. In individuals with high blood pressure, defined as a reading greater than 140/90, blood exerts excess pressure on and weakens the walls of arteries, which may lead to a stroke. Heart disease and atrial fibrillation can result in blood clots, and atrial fibrillation alone makes a person five times more likely to have a stroke. High cholesterol produces plaque buildup that obstructs the flow of blood to the brain and induces a stroke. Finally, those with diabetes have a greater risk of stroke due to comorbidities such as heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, states WebMD.

Tobacco use can greatly increase the risk of stroke. Smoking can raise blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen the body receives and damage blood vessels, reports the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Even exposure to secondhand smoke may damage blood vessels and increase the risk of stroke. Lastly, obesity, drug abuse and excessive alcohol consumption all increase the likelihood of developing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, that contribute to stroke.

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