Diabetes and Your Stroke Risk

Henry Hoffman
Thursday, June 1st, 2017
Last modified on February 7th, 2020

You may not think to connect two different health concerns like stroke and diabetes, but if you have diabetes, you are 1.5 times more likely to suffer a stroke. Why? It has to do with a key player in the body’s regulation of glucose (blood sugar): insulin. If insulin levels are off or it’s not put to proper use in the body, build up results and the likelihood of stroke increases.

Fortunately, there a number of ways to control your diabetes, and if you do that, you simultaneously decrease your risk of having a stroke. The research cited below will help you to understand the link between stroke and diabetes and which steps to take if you’re concerned for your health or that of a loved one with diabetes.


Understanding Diabetes

For our body’s cells to get the energy they need, insulin is required to regulate the process. In a way, it acts as an energy supervisor in breaking down the sugars you eat so they can be converted into energy. Diabetes results when the pancreas doesn’t create insulin, it doesn’t make enough of it, or cells don’t use the hormone correctly.

Diabetes is usually categorized as being Type 1 or 2. Type 1 diabetes typically manifests during childhood or adolescence, though it occasionally presents itself in young adults in their twenties or early thirties. This form of diabetes is characterized by a lack of insulin production in the body, and it is treated with insulin supplementation.

Type 2 diabetes is more common than Type 1; nearly 90 percent of diabetes patients suffer from it. This kind of diabetes occurs when the body does not produce the right amount of insulin or does not use the insulin the pancreas produced correctly.

While Types 1 and 2 are the most common forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects up to four percent of pregnant women and usually subsides once pregnancy is over. While it is not a permanent condition, gestational diabetes can result in an increased likelihood of both the mother and baby becoming diabetic later in life.


Diabetes and Stroke

The connection between diabetes and stroke depends on the body’s ability to process glucose, or blood sugar. Once food has been broken down, glucose enters the bloodstream to be delivered to cells throughout the body to be used as energy. Insulin is necessary for glucose to enter the cells.

If the body does not produce insulin, as in Type 1 diabetes, produces too little insulin or does not use it properly, as in Type 2 diabetes, your blood glucose levels will become too high, and it will not be delivered to cells to be used as energy.

This long-term increase in blood glucose can result in fatty deposits and clots within the blood vessels in the neck and brain, causing a reduction in blood and oxygen supply to the brain; this increases the risk of having a stroke.


Risk Factors For Diabetes and Stroke

Diabetes and stroke share many risk factors, including metabolic syndrome (also called pre-diabetes), a group of four conditions having to do with metabolism. The conditions involved in pre-diabetes are high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and having an “apple” shape, or obesity with fat deposits concentrated around the waist. Having two or more of these conditions at the same time can increase your risk of having both a stroke and diabetes.


Preventing Stroke in Diabetics

While not all risk factors for stroke can be controlled, changes in diet and lifestyle decrease the risk of stroke. A couple examples would be to exercise regularly and monitor your eating habits. These two actions alone can help you to control other risk factors such as regulating your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and managing your weight. Quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake can also reduce your risk of having a stroke.

If you are being treated for diabetes and your doctor determines that you have hardened arteries, they may prescribe medications to help alleviate clots or blockages to minimize your risk of having a stroke.


Taking Control

If you have diabetes, your chances of having a stroke are higher. Prolonged high blood glucose levels caused by diabetes can cause clots and fatty deposits in the blood vessels, leading to a decrease in oxygen flow to the brain, and consequently, a stroke.

Many of the risk factors associated with stroke are the same as the risk factors for diabetes. Remember that your efforts play an important part in fighting these conditions. If you have diabetes and get a handle on it by maintaining healthy habits, you’re already less likely to have a stroke. If it comes to you needing medication, ask your doctor for guidance, and follow their instructions while taking prescribed medications.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the Saebo website is solely at your own risk.

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