Many factors contribute to stroke risk. There is nothing you can do about some of them, such as age. Others can be managed through your own actions and choices.

Here are some of the top risk factors for stroke that you can do something about:

Blood pressure

Hypertension (high blood pressure) multiplies your stroke risk several-fold. Treating hypertension is certainly worthwhile, as effective treatment can reduce your chance of having a stroke by 40 % over five years. Read more about blood pressure.

Atrial fibrillation

Nearly one-third of strokes can be attributed to atrial fibrillation and other heart-related conditions. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that makes it easier for blood clots to form inside the heart. A clot can travel from there into your bloodstream, blocking one of the blood vessels in your brain. Often atrial fibrillation has no symptoms, but you may be able to detect it by feeling your pulse. Heart failure, coronary artery disease and heart valve problems also increase the risk.

Lifestyle-related factors:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Smoking and alcohol
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise

Avoid accumulated risk

Other factors include age, higher risk in men, genetic traits, and gestational diabetes or menopause in women. A stroke is often the outcome of multiple factors interacting with each other over many decades. It may be triggered by something like an infection, heavy drinking, or exceptional mental or physical stress.