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The Diabetes-Stroke Link: Understanding Your Risk

Research shows that diabetes raises your risk for cardiovascular complications like heart disease and stroke. In fact, if you have diabetes, you are one and a half times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who don't.

A stroke is an event that stops blood flow to an area of the brain. This can happen if a clot of blood or fat from a blood vessel has gotten lodged in the vessels, or if an artery ruptures—either event prevents blood from traveling to its intended location.

Diabetes makes it more difficult for your body to compensate for blockages in the blood vessels. In most cases, if blood can't travel its normal route it will take another path to reach the tissues. But for those with diabetes, blood vessels in all areas of the body may be damaged or hardened making it difficult or impossible for blood to move through quickly and increasing the risk for stroke.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke and getting help quickly is essential for maximum recovery. The sooner you seek medical care, the better your chance that symptoms can be reversed or drastically reduced. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 or get to your local emergency room right away:

  • Trouble speaking
  • Sudden confusion
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • Dizziness or trouble walking
  • Double vision
  • Severe headache
  • Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes

What else raises my risk for stroke?

There are other risk factors that will raise your risk for a stroke. Some you can change, and some you can't. Any steps you can take to improve your lifestyle and control blood sugar levels will make a positive difference. Risk factors include:

  • Having an age of 55 or older
  • Having history of pin strokes or mini strokes (also called a TIA)
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having sedentary lifestyle
  • Being African American

How can I lower my risk for a stroke?

The best way to reduce your risk is to live a healthy lifestyle. This means gaining control over unhealthy habits—stop smoking, reduce your alcohol intake, and eat a balanced diet. Exercise and weight control are essential. And of course, don't overlook your blood sugar. Check your glucose levels regularly and stick to your insulin treatment plan according to your doctor's instructions. Insulin pump users may look into continuous glucose monitoring integration which can allow them to make informed diabetes management decisions.

If you have any questions, please ask below!