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The Link Between Stroke and Diabetes

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While multiple studies say diabetes puts you at risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure, a healthy lifestyle and insulin treatments can help keep your risk low.

What Is a Stroke?

In a stroke, one of the many blood vessels that supply your brain with oxygen becomes damaged or blocked. If the blood flow is cut off for more than 3 to 4 minutes, that part of your brain begins to die.

There are two types of strokes:

  • Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a ruptured artery.
  • Ischemic strokes result from a blocked artery.

Diabetes can also make it harder for your body to respond to a stroke. When your oxygen supply is cut off, other arteries can usually serve as a bypass. But if you have diabetes, those vessels may be hardened or clogged with plaque, a condition known as atherosclerosis. This makes it harder for blood to get to your brain.

Causes

High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke. Others include smoking cigarettes and high levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Symptoms

A stroke is an emergency whether you have diabetes or not. If you or someone near you has any of these symptoms, call 911 at once.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Trouble speaking or understanding words or simple sentences
  • Sudden blurred vision or worse vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble swallowing
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Sudden inability to move part of the body (paralysis)
  • Sudden, unexplainable, and intense headache

Treatments

One treatment for ischemic stroke is a clot-buster drug called tPA, which must be taken within the first 3 hours after stroke symptoms begin. It dissolves the clot that has clogged an artery and can restore blood flow to brain tissue. But this drug isn’t for all people who have an ischemic stroke, especially if you've had major surgery in the previous 2 weeks or recent head trauma.

Also, several new and experimental drugs may stop and even reverse brain damage if taken immediately after a stroke.

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