Diabetes and Stroke: Is There a Connection?

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic illness that causes your blood sugar or glucose level to elevate. This disease increases your chance for various high-risk health conditions like stroke. Stroke is a condition that occurs when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted which leads to brain tissue damage. Brain cells are so severely damaged that the functions managed by the affected area- such as speech or physical movement- are impaired to the extent of causing paralysis. So, how does having diabetes make you more likely to have a stroke? Read on to find out more about the interrelation between the 2 diseases, risk factors causing them and the ways to prevent, control or manage these dreadful illnesses.


The interrelation Between Diabetes and Stroke

Diabetes and stroke are so closely interrelated that diabetes almost doubles your chances of having a stroke. The relationship between both conditions is based on the way our body handles blood sugar to produce energy. The food we eat is broken down into glucose to provide us with sufficient energy. With diabetes, be it type 1 or type 2 diabetes, your pancreas does not make sufficient insulin, a hormone that moves glucose from your blood into the cells that later convert it into energy. This leads to atherosclerosis, where sugar accumulation or fatty deposits in your blood vessels interrupt or restricts smooth blood supply to the brain. A blockage or blood clot travels to your brain and causes rupture of the damaged blood vessels, consequently leading to stroke.

Most strokes occur from rigid and stiff blood vessels in the brain and neck. When this happens, brain cells do not receive sufficient oxygen, consequently leading to the death of cell tissues resulting in a stroke.

Keeping this in mind, it is critical to comprehend the connection between diabetes and stroke so that you can take appropriate measures to keep both at bay. There are three types of stroke. They are:

  1. Ischemic stroke- This is the most common type of stroke. This type of stroke is often caused by a blood clot that cuts off the oxygen supply to the brain.
  2. Hemorrhagic stroke- This kind of stroke happens when a stiff blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures. This is highly dangerous and can cause high stroke-related mortality rates.
  3. Transient ischemic attack (TIA)- This type is rather called a mini stroke because the blood flow to the brain is interrupted only for a short period and doesn’t lead to any neurological injuries. TIA is often referred to as a warning stroke.

Diabetes and Stroke: What are the Symptoms and Risk Factors?

There are many symptoms of diabetes. These include frequent urination, Feeling thirsty all the time, unexplained weight loss, feeling hungry too often, vision loss, and fatigue, to name a few. However, most of these signs and symptoms are neglected in the initial stages, and diagnosis is not made until much later. It is no joke that sometimes a diagnosis of diabetes is made after a person suffers from a stroke! Therefore, it is imperative to understand the risk factors of diabetes and be able to prevent or even reverse the occurrence of this critical condition. Some common risk factors that pave the way to diabetes include obesity, smoking, an unhealthy and sugary diet, consuming aerated drinks too often, genetic factors, lack of physical activity, etc.

We already know diabetes is the strongest risk factor that leads to stroke. Diabetes and stroke share lots of common risk factors too. However, there exist a few other conditions that raise the chances of getting a stroke. These include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, excessive alcohol consumption, high fat diet, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of a stroke is vital to do the needful before it is too late. The mnemonic FAST is used to help people discern a stroke. It stands for:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech impairment
  • Time to call emergency services

Here are a few other symptoms that can be considered to be warning signs of a potential stroke:

  • Numbness in the body, particularly on one side.
  • Confusion and uncertainty
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Difficulty in speech and comprehension
  • Imbalance or loss of coordination

How to Diagnose, Treat and Reduce the Risk of Stroke?

There are a variety of techniques used to diagnose stroke. CAT and MRI scans are popular options, including an ultrasound test that might showcase discrepancies in the carotid artery. There are different treatments available for different types of strokes. A drug known as tPA is used to treat ischemic stroke and is advised to consume within the first three hours after symptoms begin. Another option includes a surgery known as carotid endarterectomy. Here, the plaque is separated from the carotid artery. Carotid angioplasty and stenting are a couple of other treatment options. However, these treatments are not as effective, particularly if you have diabetes.

With diabetes, you need to take medications to prevent or lower your chances of getting a stroke. In addition to medicines, most doctors also recommend diabetes control or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. How to reduce the risk of having a stroke? The answer is pretty straightforward. Manage or control your diabetes. People with diabetes should take all the precautions by paying extra attention to prevent the blood sugar levels from elevating.

Here are a few tips to reduce the risk of stroke:

  • Regular exercise- When you are physically active, your diabetes is under control making stroke a distant possibility.
  • Healthy diet- A healthy diet protects your heart and helps control diabetes.
  • Weight management- When you have a stable healthy weight, it cuts your risk of getting a stroke.
  • Quit smoking- Smoking is bad for health in ways more than one and this includes your risk of a stroke. So, you are well off without this bad habit.
  • Limit alcohol intake- Another bad habit to be curbed. Anything more than moderation also puts you at risk of stroke along with weight gain.
  • Last but not the least, keeping blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check within the safe range reduces stroke risk considerably.


There is no denying that diabetes is the biggest risk factor for stroke. But it is possible to increase your longevity and quality of life with diabetes to decrease your chance of getting a stroke. Follow your doctor’s advice and opt for appropriate treatment. If you think you or someone close to you is experiencing a stroke, you must seek immediate medical help to mitigate further risks. Stroke is a dangerous and life-threatening condition. So is diabetes. Common risk factors such as genetics, age, and family history also contribute to both diseases. They may seem out of your control, but you can lessen the stakes by making necessary lifestyle changes. Although it is difficult to get rid of all stroke risks, it is still worthy to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Stroke recovery is a difficult process, and most people need rehabilitation to fully recover. But nothing is impossible if you are surrounded by loved ones who can walk that extra mile with you on your road to recovery.

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