doctor taking patient's blood pressureA stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked. When this process is disrupted, the brain no longer receives the amount of oxygen it needs and cells die off.

There are two types of strokes: Ischemic and hemorrhagic. The most common, ischemic, happens when a blood vessel flowing to your brain is blocked or clogged. Hemorrhagic, responsible for the other 20 percent, occur when a blood vessel in your brain ruptures.

Strokes are life-changing experiences that involve a long recovery. Based on pre-existing conditions, lifestyle and genetic factors, certain people have a higher likelihood of stroke.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure places additional strain on the blood vessels, causing them to stiffen and narrow. This increases risk of a blood clot in the brain or vessels weakening over time. While high blood pressure is one of the most common sources of stroke, it’s also a condition that patients can manage with the help of a doctor.

High Cholesterol

For individuals living with this condition, cholesterol deposits can build up in the blood. This may contribute toward a blood clot, which could migrate to the brain and cause a stroke.

Smoking and Tobacco

Smoking cigarettes increases a patient’s stroke risk in two key ways. One, nicotine causes a patient’s blood pressure to rise. Two, inhaling the chemicals in a cigarette causes fat deposits to build up in the arteries and gradually thickens the blood.

These factors increase a smoker’s risk of having a fatty deposit dislodge and travel to the brain or having a clot form.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Multiple cardiovascular conditions can increase risk of experiencing a stroke, including:

  • Carotid Artery Disease: The carotid artery, which supplies blood from your neck to your brain, gradually starts to narrow from atherosclerosis.
  • Peripheral Artery Disease: The vessels carrying blood to the leg and arm muscles start to narrow. Patients living with peripheral artery disease may eventually develop carotid artery disease, which increases the risk of developing a stroke.
  • Atrial Fibrillation: This heart rhythm disorder, in which the heart’s upper chambers beat out of sync, increases a patient’s risk of having a stroke.
  • Heart Disease: This disease affects the heart valves and may involve atrial fibrillation. Patients also experience clogged arteries, which can increase stroke risk.


Some patients living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes may also be overweight, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Patients who experience a stroke while their blood sugar levels are elevated may suffer a greater degree of brain damage.

Overweight and Inactive

People who are overweight or sedentary have elevated risks. Aim for the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity, consume more fruits and vegetables and cut back on fats.

Age and Genetic Factors

Although you can experience a stroke at any age, the odds increase in those over 55 and double every decade onwards. Certain genetic factors may also heighten risk, including:

  • A family history of strokes, high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • You’re male – men have a higher likelihood of stroke.
  • You have sickle cell anemia, a genetic condition that causes the arteries to narrow.

Additional Lifestyle Factors

Beyond health conditions, certain lifestyle habits can elevate likelihood of a stroke:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse, including cocaine, heroin and amphetamines
  • Poor sleep habits, which can also contribute to heart disease

Following a stroke, many individuals need short-term rehabilitation to regain strength, mobility and motor skills. To learn more about the recovery process, contact us today.