Schedule an Emergency Room Video Visit or In-Person Visit
ER Video Visit Information ER In-Person Visit
Kaleida Health logo

Stroke Care Center at Gates Vascular Institute
Risk Factors

Pill bottleRisk factors are conditions or habits that make one more prone to develop a disease. There are risk factors which can be controlled (modifiable) and those that cannot be controlled (non-modifiable). It is important for patients to work with their physician to develop a plan to control risk factors and decrease chance of stroke.

Take the Stroke Risk Assessment Quiz

(All risk factor recommendations should be discussed with the patient’s personal physician.)

Risk Factor

High Risk


Low Risk

Blood Pressure Greater than 140
over 90
"I don't know"
In the range of
120 to139
over 80 to 89
Less than 120
over 80
Cholesterol Greater than 240
"I don't know"
In the range of
200 to 239
Less than 200
Diabetes "Yes" Borderline "No"
Smoking "I still smoke" "I'm trying to
I'm a non-smoker"
Atrial Fibrillation "I have an
"I don't know" "My heartbeat is
not irregular"
Body Weight "I'm overweight" "I'm slightly

"My weight is

Exercise "I'm a couch
"I exercise
"I exercise
"I have stroke in my family" "Yes" "I don't know" "No"

How to Determine Stroke Risk?

Each box that applies to the patient equals 1 point. Total the score at the bottom of each column and compare with the stroke risk levels below:

If your RED score is 3 or more, please ask your doctor about stroke prevention right away.
If your YELLOW score is 4 - 6, you're off to a good start. Keep working on it! Talk to your doctor about things you can do to put yourself less at risk.
If your GREEN score is 6 - 8, congratulations! You're doing very well at controlling your risk for stroke!

© 2011 National Stroke Association. Content provided by permission of National Stroke Association. Please visit for stroke education resources.

Controllable (Modifiable) Risk Factors

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

  • The leading cause of heart disease and stroke
  • If a previous stroke was experienced or the individual has Diabetes Mellitus or kidney disease, the target blood pressure should be under 140/90.

Diabetes Mellitus

  • Damages the small blood vessels anywhere in the body including the brain.
  • Good diabetes management may prevent damage to the small blood vessels.
  • HbA1c is a blood test that identifies if blood sugar has been in good control over the past three months. The HbA1c should be less than 7 percent.

High cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia)

  • Increases risk of heart disease more than stroke. If a stroke has previously been experienced, it is recommended that the “bad” cholesterol or LDL should be less than 70 mg/dl. In general LDL should be less than 100mg/dl.
  • Cholesterol levels may be controlled with diet, exercise or medication.


  • Tobacco use is a major preventable risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
  • Once an individual quits smoking, the risk of stroke almost disappears within five years.
  • "Passive Smoking" also may be a risk factor.
  • To quit, call 1-866-NY-quits (1-866-697-8487).

Irregular heart beat (Atrial fibrillation)

  • Risk of stroke is five times greater compared to someone who does not have atrial fibrillation.
  • Medications may be prescribed to thin the blood.
  • Other heart conditions such as heart valve disease, congestive heart failure, recent heart attack, or abnormal structures may increase stroke risk.


Excessive alcohol consumption

  • Can increase the risk of stroke.
  • Alcohol should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
  • One drink is equal to 1 oz. of hard liquor, 4 oz. of wine, or one bottle of beer.

Being overweight or physically inactive

  • Increases the chance of developing high blood pressure and diabetes, which are risk factors for stroke and heart disease.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low in fat and cholesterol.
  • Thirty (30) minutes of even mild exercise each day may reduce stroke risk.



  • Medications such as oral contraceptive pills increase the risk of stroke, especially in smokers.
  • Illegal IV drugs and cocaine also increase the risk for stroke.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors


  • People of all ages, including children, may have strokes.
  • Stroke is more common in people ages 55 – 60.


  • Stroke is more common in women than in men.
  • Women are more likely to have a stroke than a heart attack as their first event.
  • The incidence of stroke in women increases after menopause.


  • African Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk of death from stroke than Caucasians.
  • This may be due to an increased incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Family History

  • Stroke risk is greater if family members, especially parents, have had a stroke or heart attack.

Prior Stroke or Heart Attack

  • Someone who has had a stroke, even a "mini stroke," is at much higher risk of having a repeat stroke.
  • If someone has previously had a heart attack, they are at higher risk of stroke.

Regular medical checkups are important in evaluating risk factors and detecting problems before they become serious.