Age

The risk of developing heart disease increases as a person gets older. Although a stroke can happen to someone at any age, the majority of strokes happen to people who are over the age of 65.

Heredity

The risk of heart disease increases if immediate family members (parents, siblings or children) developed heart disease before the age of 55 or, in the case of females, before menopause. The risk of stroke increases if immediate family members had a stroke before the age of 65.

Gender and Menopause

Men over the age of 55 are at greater risk of heart disease. A woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke increases when they reach menopause. This is due to decreasing amounts of the hormone estrogen, which helps to protect the heart. Reduced estrogen levels may also increase body fat above the waist, have harmful effects on the way blood clots, and affect the way the body handles sugar, a precursor condition to diabetes. A menopausal woman may also show a tendency toward higher blood pressure.

Race or Ethnic Background

First Nations people and those of African or South Asian descent are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes and are therefore at greater risk of heart disease and stroke than the general population.