All the evidence points towards a strong link between increased weight and incidence of stroke. Take a look at these interesting facts from studies around the world to understand the risk, depending on your age, weight and lifestyle.

1. Stroke risk increases by 64% in the obese

People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30 are 2–3 times more likely to suffer a stroke compared to those with a normal weight (a BMI of less than 25). Plus, the risk goes up, the more you weigh. Studies show the risk of ischaemic stroke (the result of an obstruction in the blood vessels supplying the brain) increases by 22% for overweight people and 64% in obese individuals (1,2,3).

2. Obesity is higher in people over 60

Obesity is now a huge burden to health all over the world. In America, the number of obese adults has tripled since 1980 (4) and it’s estimated that 51.6% of people in Europe are overweight. Although obesity is a risk factor for stroke in the old and young population, there are fewer people who are obese in the ‘18–24’ age bracket, and more people in the ‘65 to 74’ age range (5).

3. Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is linked with a 5% increased risk of stroke

A higher Body Mass Index (BMI) has often been linked to an increased risk of stroke. But some studies suggest abdominal body fat is a stronger indicator of stroke risk. Even a small increase in WHR (waist circumference / hip circumference) just 1% comparing to normal (0,90 for men, 0,85 for women) can equate to a 5% increase in cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, chest pain or stroke (6,7).

4. The risk of death by stroke increases by 40% for every excess 5kg of weight

Research suggests the heavier you are, the more chance you have of dying by stroke. People who are classed as overweight, obese or morbidly obese (with a BMI of between 25 to 50) have a 40% increase in stroke mortality for each additional 5kg of weight. Whereas people with a BMI of less than 24 show no increased risk (8).

5. Meeting 3 lifestyle goals could reduce stroke risk

Although it’s hard to determine whether weight loss alone reduces the risk of stroke, studies show that when patients stick to three simple lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, doing more exercise or losing weight, the number of strokes is decreased. Furthermore, eating a healthy, low-fat diet also helps to control blood pressure, diabetes and other stroke risk factors (9).


1. Pouliot MC, Despres JP, Lemieux S, Moorjani S, Bouchard C, Tremblay
A, et al. Waist circumference and abdominal sagittal diameter: best simple anthropometric indexe of abdominal visceral adipose tissue accumulation and related cardiovascular risk in men and women. Am J Cardiol, 994;73(7): 460-8.

2. Hamm P, Shekelle RB, and Stamler J. Large fluctuations in body weight during young adulthood and twenty-five-year risk of coronary death in men. Am J Epidemiol, 1989; 129(2):312-8.

3. Strazzullo P, D’Elia L, Cairella G, Garbagnati F, Cappuccio FP, Scalfi L. Excess body weight and incidence of stroke: meta-analysis of prospective studies with 2 million participants. Stroke. 2010;41:e418-e426.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic disease prevention and health promotion, obesity: halting the epidemic by making health easier at a glance 2011. Accessed February 27, 2013.

5. Eurostat. Overweight and obesity – BMI statistics. 2014. Accessed June 7th. – BMI statistics.

6. Suk SH, Sacco RL, Boden-Albala B, Cheun JF, Pittman JG, Elkind MS, Paik MC; Northern Manhattan Stroke Study. Abdominal obesity and risk of ischemic stroke: the Northern Manhattan Stroke Study.Stroke. 2003;34:1586-1592.

7. Walker SP, Rimm EB, Ascherio A, Kawachi I, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Body size and fat distribution as predictors of stroke among U men. Am J Epidemiol. 1996;144:1143-1150.

8. Prospective Studies Collaboration; Whitlock G, Lewington S, Sherliker P, Clarke R, Emberson J, Halsey J, Qizilbash N, Collins R, Peto R. Body-mass index and cause-specific mortality in 900 000 adults: collaborative analyses of 57 prospective studies. Lancet. 2009;373:1083-1096.

9. Sjostrom L. Review of the key results from the Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) trial: a prospective controlled intervention study of bariatric surgery. J Intern Med. 2013;273:219-234.