People with diabetes have a higher risk of stroke than those without it. But a person can reduce their stroke risk by controlling their diabetes well and making certain lifestyle changes.
For an individual with diabetes, the chances of having a stroke are 1.5 times higher than in people who do not have the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. This is because frequent shifts in blood sugar levels can affect the cardiovascular system.
This article discusses the link between diabetes and stroke. It also looks at ways of preventing or lowering the risk of a stroke.
What is the link?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Most strokes result from a blood clot blocking a blood vessel in the brain or neck.
Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves. People with diabetes have longer periods of high blood sugar than those without diabetes, especially if the condition is not well-controlled. This makes a person with diabetes more likely to have a stroke.
People with diabetes are also more likely to have other conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and obesity.
The American Heart Association (AHA) report that 16 percent of adults over the age of 65 with diabetes die from a stroke and that 68 percent die from some form of heart disease.
According to their website, the AHA consider diabetes to be "one of the seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease," a list that also includes obesity, high blood pressure, an unhealthful diet, and smoking cigarettes.
What to know about stroke
A stroke occurs when blood flow is blocked to an area of the brain, due to either a clot or a ruptured blood vessel. When this happens, brain cells in the area are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, causing cell tissue death and, in some cases, brain damage.
There are three types of stroke:
- An ischemic stroke results from a clot blocking blood flow to the brain.
- A hemorrhagic stroke results from a burst blood vessel or a leak from a weakened blood vessel.
- A transient ischemic attack (TIA), previously known as a mini-stroke, results from temporary blood clots or low blood flow to the brain.
Symptoms and warning signs
Stroke symptoms and warning signs typically develop suddenly. Many healthcare providers urge people with an increased stroke risk to learn the F.A.S.T. warning signs and action plan.
F.A.S.T. stands for the following:
- Facial drooping on one side
- Arm weakness or one arm drifting downward when both arms are raised
- Speech problems, such as slurred speech
- Time to call 911
Beyond the F.A.S.T. indicators, there are other symptoms of a stroke:
- numbness or weakness in one side of the face or body
- a severe headache
- trouble walking and other coordination and balance problems
- trouble seeing in one or both eyes
These symptoms tend to come on suddenly and can be severe.