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How Diabetes Increases Your Risk of Stroke

May 30, 2017 | By Nicole Simmons
Published in: Diabetes, Stroke

A diabetic checking her blood glucose level

Nearly 100 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetes. Unfortunately, individuals who have diabetes are also 2 to 4 times more likely to have a stroke. They also tend to develop heart disease or experience strokes at a much earlier age. With this in mind, it's important to understand the relationship between diabetes and stroke so you can take steps to stay healthy.

Why Diabetes Often Leads to Stroke

Much of the food we eat is broken down into glucose (sugar) to give our body energy. When glucose enters the bloodstream, it travels to cells throughout the body once the food is digested. The pancreas is tasked with the job of producing the right amount of insulin for the amount of glucose present. Insulin is a hormone that allows your body to use the glucose as energy or store it for use later.

People with Type 2 diabetes have a pancreas that doesn't make enough insulin or cells in the muscles, liver, and fat don't use insulin the right way. They end up with too much glucose or sugar in their blood. This extra sugar in the blood can cause increased deposits of fat or blood clots on the blood vessel walls. These clots and deposits can restrict or completely block vessels in the neck or brain. This eventually decreases or cuts off blood supply entirely and prevents oxygen from reaching the brain. When this happens a stroke can occur.

Many Diabetes Risks Factors & Stroke Risk Factors Are the Same

Female measuring her waistDiabetes and stroke also share common risk factors:

  • Apple Body Shape or Fat Concentrated in the Waist
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Blood Glucose Levels

Additional diabetes risk factors include:

  • Being Over 55
  • Being African-American
  • Having Heart Disease
  • Family History of Heart Disease
  • Already Experienced a Stroke
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

If You Have Diabetes, You Can Still Lower Your Stroke Risks

Nurse checking a patient's glucoseEven if you already have diabetes, you can still take steps to ensure your heart and blood vessels are healthy. Maintaining a heart-healthy diet and consuming at least 14 grams of fiber for each 1000 calories consumed will reduce your stroke risks. Regular exercise is also a good way stay healthy and eliminate stroke risk. Also, losing weight will help you keep a stroke at bay.

Your Family Doctor is an Important Part of Helping Reduce Your Risk of Stoke

Your doctor also plays a major role in helping you avoid unnecessary stroke risks. Be sure to see your doctor regularly and keep your doctor informed about changes in your body or the way you feel. If necessary, your doctor can put you on preventative medications and prescribe a low dose of aspirin to prevent blood clots. Regular testing also helps you monitor your progress in eliminating stroke risks. Using these tests, your doctor can help you track your blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

It's important to be informed. People who have diabetes can live long and healthy lives without experiencing a stroke or heart disease. Recognizing the connection between these two ailments is the first step in lowering your risk of a stroke. If you don't have diabetes, but you're at risk for developing it, now is the time to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Remember, you can always choose to live a healthier life!

Being there while a loved one is experiencing a stroke can be a terrifying experience, but you can get through it. The most important thing to remember is to get help quickly. Immediate medical care provides the best opportunity for a full recovery.

The Augusta Health Stroke Center is dedicated to providing the specialized care that stroke patients need. Visit their page to learn more about risk actors and rehabilitation options.

Need help controlling your Diabetes? Our Diabetes & Endocrinology Clinic may be able to help you.