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Family History and Other Characteristics That Increase Risk for Stroke

Older woman with daughter and granddaughter

Family members share genes, behaviors, lifestyles, and environments that can influence their health and their risk for disease. Stroke risk can be higher in some families than in others, and your chances of having a stroke can go up or down depending on your age, sex, and race or ethnicity.


The good news is you can take steps to prevent stroke. Work with your health care team to lower your risk for stroke.



Genetics and family history


When members of a family pass traits from one generation to another through genes, that process is called heredity.


Genetics factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, stroke, and other related conditions. Several genetics disorders can cause a stroke, including sickle cell disease. People with a family history of stroke are also likely to share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.


The chances for stroke can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating an unhealthy diet.


Family health history is a record of the diseases and health conditions that happen in your family. Family health history is a useful tool for understanding health risks and preventing health problems. To help people collect and organize their family history information, the CDC's Office of Public Health Genomics worked with the U.S. Surgeon General and other federal agencies to develop a web-based tool called My Family Health Portrait.





The older you are, the more likely you are to have a stroke. The chance of having a stroke about doubles every 10 years after age 55. Although stroke is common among older adults, many people younger than 65 years also have strokes.


In fact, about one in seven strokes occur in adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 49. Experts thing younger people are having more strokes because more young people are obese and have high blood pressure and diabetes.





Stroke is more common in women than men, and women of all ages are more likely than men to die from stroke. Pregnancy and use of birth control pills pose special stroke risks for women.



Race or ethnicity


Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaska Natives may be more likely to have a stroke than non-Hispanic white or Asians. The risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks as for whites. Blacks are also more likely to die from stroke than whites are.



  1. Bushnell C, McCullough LD, Awad IA, Chireau MV, Fedder WN, Furie, KL, et al. Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in women: A statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke 2014;45(5):1545–88.
  2. George MG, Tong X, Kuklina EV, Labarthe DR. (2011). Trends in stroke hospitalizations and associated risk factors among children and young adults, 1995-2008. Annals of Neurology; 70(5): 713–721.
  3. Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2016 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016;133:e38-e360.


National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion , Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention

Content last updated March 17, 2021

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