BACKGROUND: A high level of public awareness of stroke may reduce the stroke risk. The aim of this study was to assess the public's awareness of stroke warning signs and risk factors, and to determine the associated factors. METHODS: The study population was 2492 community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and older who participated in the 2010 baseline Dong-gu Study. Information regarding knowledge of stroke warning signs, stroke risk factors, and demographics was collected using standardized open- and closed-form questionnaires. RESULTS: The stroke warning signs that were most frequently identified by respondents were "sudden numbness or weakness" (73.7%) and "sudden difficulty in speaking or in understanding speech" (73.6%). In multivariate analysis, incomplete awareness of stroke warning signs was significantly associated with a lower education level, no history of past stroke, and incorrect knowledge of the definition of stroke. Hypertension and stress were most commonly recognized as risk factors when open-ended questions were used (by 22.3% and 14.1% of the respondents, respectively) and also with close-ended questions (77.7% and 82.4%, respectively). In multivariate analysis, older age, current smoking, lower education level, and incorrect knowledge of the definition of stroke were associated with a worse awareness of stroke risk factors. CONCLUSIONS: A community-based program is needed to improve public awareness of the warning signs and risk factors for stroke. In order to reduce the risk of stroke, public health education and media efforts should focus on people who are older and have a lower level of education.