Obesity, an unhealthy diet and too little exercise are associated with an increased risk of stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is decreased or interrupted, causing brain damage and brain cell death.
While age, sex and genetics play a role in your overall risk of having a stroke, obesity and obesity-related conditions increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, including plaque buildups in artery walls, narrowing of blood vessels and abnormal heart rhythms. All of these factors are preventable and treatable precursors to stroke, and The National Stroke Organization estimates that as many as 80 percent of strokes are preventable.
The American Stroke Association reports that the risk of suffering a stroke is greater in 35- to 54-year-old obese women than in leaner women [source: Engelhardt and Ovbiagele]. Men aren't in the clear, either. A study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital found that 40- to 84-year-old men with a BMI of 30 or greater have twice the risk of suffering a stroke than their peers with BMIs of 23 or lower [source: Harvard Gazette].