Diabetes & Strokes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 30 million people in the Unit-ed States have diabetes, a condition that results in a high level of sugar in the blood. Dia-betes can also contribute to the development of other health conditions such as heart disease, hearing problems, conditions that affect the eyes and an increased risk of hav-ing a stroke.
A stroke is a condition that occurs when the blood flow to a certain area of the brain is cut off, causing brain cells to die. Depending on the part of the brain that’s damaged, abilities like muscle movement or speech may be affected. Having diabetes increases the risk of stroke by 2 to 4 times and experiencing a stroke at an earlier age. The risk of stroke is generally higher in those with type 2 diabetes than type 1.
Described below is how diabetes itself and the health conditions associated with diabetes can contribute to the increased risk for stroke.
- High blood sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels. This can lead to the de-velopment of atherosclerosis, a condition where fatty particles or clots form on the in-side of the blood vessels, creating narrower or blocked blood vessels. If the blood vessels in the brain become blocked, this can cause a stroke.
- High blood pressure can make the heart work harder to pump blood, which can dam-age the heart and blood vessels and increase the risk of developing stroke.
- High cholesterol can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
For this with diabetes, following a balanced, healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of de-veloping diabetes-related health problems. The specific lifestyle changes recommended for each person will vary depending on health conditions and health goals. Along with life-style changes, your healthcare provider may recommend medications to help treat diabe-tes, decrease blood pressure or decrease cholesterol levels. Your healthcare provider will determine the best medication regimen for your specific condition.
Though the primary goal is to prevent stroke in those with and without diabetes, it’s im-portant to recognize the symptoms. The following are the typical warning signs, accord-ing to the National Stroke Association:
- weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- sudden confusion or trouble understanding
- difficulty with talking
- dizziness, imbalance, difficulty walking
- difficulty with seeing in one or both eyes
- severe headache
Deciding to take action is the first step in achieving health goals. Keep the lines of com-munication open with your healthcare providers so they can provide guidance and make recommendations. They will monitor your progress by making sure you are maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels and measuring values such as cholesterol and blood pressure. Aside from the medical support, it’s also helpful to have someone cheer you on as you work towards a healthier you.