Men and Stroke
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in men, killing almost the same number of men each year as prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined.1 Stroke is also a leading cause of long-term disability2 and is more common in younger men under age 44 than in younger women.3
These facts are alarming, but there is good news: about 4 in 5 strokes are preventable.4 That’s why it’s important to know your risk for stroke and take action to reduce the risk. And you can learn more about how CDC and its partners are leading programs to help prevent stroke.
What is a stroke?
A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, happens when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. When brain cells are starved of oxygen, they die. Stroke is a medical emergency. It’s important to get treatment as soon as possible (see sidebar). A delay in treatment increases the risk of permanent brain damage or death.
What puts men at risk for stroke?
Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, is a main risk factor for stroke. About 1 in 3 men have stage 2 hypertension (having a blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 mmHg), and more than half do not have it under control.5
Other risk factors for stroke include:
- Smoking. Smoking damages blood vessels, which can cause a stroke. About 1 in 6 men smoke.6 Men are also more likely to be smokers than women.6
- Overweight and obesity. Having overweight or obesity increases stroke risk. About 3 in 4 men in the United States have overweight or obesity.7
- Diabetes. Diabetes increases stroke risk because it can harm blood vessels in the brain. About 1 in 8 men have diabetes.8
- Too much alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure levels and increase the risk for stroke. It also increases levels of triglycerides, a form of fat in your blood that can harden your arteries. Men are more likely than women to drink too much alcohol.9
- Not enough physical activity. Not getting enough physical activity can lead to other health conditions that can raise the risk for stroke. Only 1 in 4 men gets enough physical activity, including muscle-strengthening exercises, according to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americansexternal icon.10 In 2017, fewer than 1 out of 3 men met the guidelines (for aerobics and muscle strengthening).11
Why are African American men at higher risk for stroke?
Almost half of African Americans have a risk factor that can lead to a stroke.5
- Two in 5 African American men have stage 2 hypertension—a main risk factor for stroke.5 High blood pressure is more severe in African American men than in white men.3 More than 3 in 5 African American men with stage 2 hypertension do not have it under control.5
- About 1 in 8 African American men have been diagnosed with diabetes, and many more have the disease but do not know it.8
- Sickle cell disease, a common genetic disorder in African Americans, can lead to a stroke. About 1 in 365 black or African American babies are born with sickle cell disease.12
- About 1 in 5 African American men smoke.6
- About 7 in 10 African American men have overweight or obesity.7
- Eating too much salt, or sodium, can raise your blood pressure, putting you at higher risk of stroke. Researchers think there may be a gene that makes African Americans more sensitive to the effects of salt, which in turn increases the risk of developing high blood pressure.13
Why are Hispanic men at risk for stroke?
- One in 4 Hispanic men has stage 2 hypertension—a major risk factor for stroke.5 More than half of Hispanic men with high blood pressure do not have it under control.5
- About 1 in 8 Hispanic men have been diagnosed with diabetes, and many more have the disease but do not know it. Diabetes is also more common in people of Mexican and Puerto Rican ancestry than in people of Cuban or Central/South American ancestry.8
- About 1 in 7 Hispanic men smoke.6
- About 4 in 5 Hispanic men have overweight or obesity.7
How can I prevent stroke?
Most strokes can be prevented by keeping medical conditions under control and making healthy lifestyle changes:
Know your ABCS of heart and brain health:
- Aspirin: Aspirin may help reduce your risk for stroke, but you should check with your doctor before taking aspirin, because it can make some types of stroke worse. Before taking aspirin, talk with your doctor about whether it is right for you.
- Blood pressure: Control your blood pressure with healthy lifestyle changes (see below). If a blood pressure medicine is prescribed, take it as directed. Learn more about blood pressure.
- Cholesterol: Manage your blood cholesterol with healthy lifestyle changes. If a cholesterol medicine is prescribed, take it as directed. Learn more about cholesterol.
- Smoking: Don’t start smoking. If you do smoke, learn how to quit.
Make lifestyle changes:
- Eat healthy: Choose healthy foods, including foods with less salt, or sodium, to lower your blood pressure and foods that are rich in fiber and whole grains to manage your cholesterol. Learn more about healthy eatingexternal icon.
- Get regular physical activity: Regular physical activity helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight and keeps your heart and blood vessels healthier. Adults 18 and older should get at least 150 minutes (or 2 hours and 30 minutes) of physical activity each week and do muscle strengthening activities on two or more days each week.14
Work with your health care team:
- Talk with your doctor about your chances of having a stroke, including your age and whether anyone in your family has had a stroke.
- Get other health conditions under control, such as diabetes or heart disease.
CDC and its partners are leading national initiatives and programs to reduce rates of death and disability caused by stroke and to help everyone live longer, healthier lives.
CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) provides resources to all 50 states to address heart disease and stroke, as well as helping lead or support the following:
- The Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program funds nine state health departments to measure, track, and improve the quality of care for stroke patients. The program works to reduce death and disabilities from stroke.
- The Million Hearts®external icon initiative, which is co-led by CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, works with other federal agencies and private-sector partners to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke and prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2022.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Underlying Cause of Death 1999–2017. CDC WONDER Online Database. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2018. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2017, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html. Accessed Jun 11, 2019
- George MG, Fischer L, Koroshetz W, Bushnell C, Frankel M, Foltz J, et al. CDC Grand Rounds: Public Health Strategies to Prevent and Treat Strokes. 2017;66:479–481.
- Benjamin EJ, Muntner P, Alonso A, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2019 update: a report from the American Heart Associationexternal icon. Circulation. 2019;139:e1–e473.
- Yang Q, Tong X, Schieb L, Vaughan A, Gillespie C, Wiltz JL, et al. Vital Signs: recent trends in stroke death rates — United States, 2000–2015. 2017;66:933–939.
- Fryar CD, Ostchega Y, Hales CM, Zhang G, Kruszon-Moran D. Hypertension prevalence and control among adults: United States, 2015–2016. NCHS data brief, no. 289. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2017.
- National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Health, United States, 2017: With special feature on mortality. Table 49. Current cigarette smoking among adults aged 18 and over, by sex, race, Hispanic origin, age, and education level: United States, average annual, selected years 1990–1992 through 2014–2016. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus/contents2017.htm#049. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- Health, United States, 2017: With special feature on mortality. Table 58. Normal weight, overweight, and obesity among adults aged 20 and over, by selected characteristics: United States, selected years 1988–1994 through 2013–2016. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus/contents2017.htm#058. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- CDC. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017 pdf icon[PDF-1.35 MB]. Accessed May 14, 2019.
- CDC. Fact Sheets – Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men’s Health. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americansexternal icon. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- Healthy People 2020external icon. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Sickle Cell Diseaseexternal icon. Accessed May 15, 2019.
- American Heart Association. High Blood Pressure and African Americansexternal icon. Accessed May 15, 2019
- Health, United States, 2017: With special feature on mortality. Table 57. Participation in leisure-time aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities that meet the federal 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans among adults aged 18 and over, by selected characteristics: United States, selected years 1998–2016. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus/contents2017.htm#057. Accessed July 22, 2019.