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Diabetes and Stroke: What You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Dan Navarro · Updated Nov 07, 2022

Diabetes and Stroke: What You Need To Know

Diabetes mellitus, or commonly known simply as diabetes, is a chronic condition associated with high levels of blood sugar glucose in the body. This is due to the cells’ resistance to insulin, or lack thereof in the body. If left unmanaged, it could lead to variety of serious complications such as kidney failure, neuropathy or even stroke.

There are two (2) types of diabetes mellitus, wherein type 2 is more common that type 1. Diabetes mellitus type 1 means that an individual has problems with his or her pancreas not releasing enough insulin, while diabetes mellitus type 2 pertains to a scenario where an individual has peripheral insulin resistance. This means that muscles cannot utilize the insulin available in the blood. Basically, diabetes mellitus is a state of the body where it cannot properly utilize insulin to regulate the blood glucose level.

Both types of diabetes mellitus eventually leads to accumulation of blood glucose in the bloodstream. In turn, increased blood sugar levels will lead to other serious health issues that affects the kidneys, heart, eyes, nerves, and even mental state. As doctors often say, one dies not from diabetes mellitus per se but from the many complications it brought with it.

Another disease to be tackled is stroke. It is the sudden halt of blood supply to the brain, either due to damaged arteries or blocked blood flow. Long periods of interrupted blood supply damages the brain. Since brain is the center of all bodily functions, this could affect one’s physical and cognitive functions. Stroke is considered as a serious medical concern. But it can be prevented and treated.

Understanding Diabetes and Stroke: What’s the Connection?

Diabetes brings many complications with it, and among these is stroke as one of the serious ones. According to the American Stroke Association, patients with diabetes are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to experience stroke than those without any symptoms associated with diabetes. This is because diabetes damages the blood vessels by decreasing the elasticity of blood vessels and by causing them to narrow, impeding blood flow, which in turn may interrupt the blood supply to the brain.

Written below are the known risk factors which increase the probability of having a stroke. They are as follows:

  • Age. Patients 55 years old and older are more prone to stroke as the arteries become stiffer as time passes
  • History of stroke. If the patient had already experienced a stroke, or even transient ischemic attack (TIA), this increases the likelihood experiencing another episode of stroke
  • Family’s medical history. If the patient’s family has a medical history of having stroke or TIA
  • Existing medical condition. If the patient has existing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and high amounts of “bad cholesterol”
  • Lifestyle. If the patient is overweight, has excessive belly fat, not physically active, or has been smoking;
  • Signs of Stroke

    Regardless if due to diabetes or other conditions, stroke can be experienced by patients once the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This can manifest differently depending on the part of the brain that has been damaged.

    The Stroke Association has provided a guide in recognizing the signs of stroke. Dubbed as the “FAST test,” this guide instructs people to identify the following signs of stroke:

    • Facial movements – One sign of an impending stroke is the inability to perform facial movements, or when parts of the facial skin are sagging.
    • Arm weakness – A notable characteristic of stroke is the numbness of one side of the body. If a person cannot move or raise both arms, he or she might be experiencing the onset of a stroke.
    • Speech problems – Stroke can also bring difficulty in communicating and constructing speech. Thus, a person with a stroke cannot communicate clearly and finds it difficult to actually speak.
    • Time to call Emergency Help – Once assessed and proven that the person is manifesting signs of stroke, you should call for emergency. (In the Philippines, you should call 911 or the number of the nearest hospital instead.)

    Aside from the ones mentioned above, the following are other warning signs of an impending, or even an ongoing episode of stroke:

    • Experiencing blurring of vision or loss of eyesight in one or both eyes;
    • Experiencing memory loss or confusion, as well as dizziness or a sudden fall;
    • Abrupt severe headache.

    Treatment and Prevention

    As stroke is a serious condition, it is important that the patient should be brought to the hospital for medical assistance and intervention. There, patients may be treated with the following:


    This involves the use of “clot-busting drugs” to reduce the damage brought by the blood clots and prevent the subsequent stroke.

    Surgical treatments

    There are instances where interruption to the bloodstream should be addressed through surgery. This includes the following:

    • Carotid Artery Surgery – This procedure involves removal of fatty deposits in the artery. This helps in restoring of the blood supply in the brain
    • Carotid stenting – This involves opening the narrowed artery using a small tube with an attached balloon that can be inflated during the procedure.

    Other forms of therapy

    Stroke may affect the physical and cognitive functions of patients. In cases like this, patients should be given physical, occupational and speech therapy to restore such functions. Psychological counseling may also be included.

    Diabetes and stroke can be prevented through the following:

    • Check your cholesterol levels. Control the amounts of cholesterol in the body by limiting the intake of fat and cholesterol-based foods.
    • Taking prescribed medications. When you are diagnosed with a disease like diabetes, your doctor will prescribe you medications to deal with your disease, and to prevent further complications in the future.
    • Avoid smoking. Limit your alcohol intake.
    • Check your blood pressure. Manage it through healthy diet and taking medications.
    • Exercise regularly
    • Follow prescribed instructions in changing your diet and using preventive medications.

    Key Takeaways

     Diabetes is a serious medical condition that can lead to other serious health complications, such as stroke. Diabetes-induced stroke, much like other forms of stroke, can affect the patient’s life and well-being if not treated properly.

    As the signs of stroke manifest, do not hesitate to let the patient be treated in the hospital. Likewise, diabetes and stroke can be avoided through healthy lifestyle choices.

     Learn more about diabetes complications, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Dan Navarro · Updated Nov 07, 2022

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