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The Relationship Between Diabetes and Stroke

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 18, 2021

The Relationship Between Diabetes and Stroke

Diabetes, a condition wherein a person suffers from high levels of blood glucose, can lead to various debilitating complications if it’s not managed properly. But did you know that it can also result in stroke? What’s the relationship between diabetes and stroke?

Diabetes and Stroke, an Overview

Before we discuss how diabetes increases your risk of stroke, it’s best to at least describe the two conditions first.


As mentioned, diabetes occurs when a person experiences high blood glucose (sugar) levels. But, why does it happen?

  • Generally, it’s because there’s a problem with insulin, a hormone that helps the glucose enter the cells.
  • Type 1 diabetics cannot produce enough insulin because they have a problem with their pancreas, the organ that produces the hormone.
  • On the other hand, Type 2 diabetics develop insulin resistance – a condition wherein the cells do not respond to insulin.

Whether it’s Type 1 or 2, the result is the same: High blood sugar levels. It leads to symptoms like frequent urination, thirst, wounds that don’t heal, and lack of energy.

In the long run, and especially when diabetes is not managed well, it can cause complications like diabetic foot, nerve damage, and vision loss.

relationship between diabetes and stroke


To get a clearer picture of the relationship between diabetes and stroke, we also need to briefly define the latter.

Stroke is a type of cerebrovascular disease. Generally, what happens is that there is a sudden loss of brain function due to disruption of blood supply to the brain.

As a result, a part of the brain will not receive the oxygen and other nutrients that it needs. Due to this, the brain cells might die. And the part of the body those cells are connected to will be affected.

For instance, if the affected area is the cerebrum or the hemispheres, stroke can cause vision and speech problems, difficulty in movement, impaired sensation, or loss of bowel or bladder control.

relationship between diabetes and stroke

The Relationship between Diabetes and Stroke

Seeing that diabetes is a disease that causes increased blood glucose levels, while stroke is a condition that mostly affects the brain, how are the two connected?

According to medical experts, diabetes increases your risk of stroke because of how it affects the blood vessels.

  • You see, with the increased glucose level in the blood, the blood vessels are more likely to accumulate fat deposits.

  • Moreover, blood sugar can trigger the occurrence of blood clots.

  • These fat deposits or blood clots can cause a stroke if they block or rupture the blood vessels within the brain.

But, there’s more to the relationship between diabetes and stroke.

Scientists found out that stroke patients who exhibit uncontrolled blood sugar have a higher mortality or death rate. Likewise, the post-stroke outcome also tends to be poorer with high glucose levels.

Diabetes and Stroke Share Similar Risk Factors

Another reason why there’s a strong relationship between diabetes and stroke is that these two conditions share some risk factors.

This means that some of the risk factors for diabetes are also risk factors for stroke. These are:

  • Obesity, especially when the extra fat is concentrated in the middle or belly. This is also called the “apple body shape”.
  • Prediabetes, a condition wherein the blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be categorized as diabetes.
  • High blood pressure

How to Lower Your Risk of Stroke if You Have Diabetes

Now that you have a good idea of how diabetes increases your risk of stroke, let’s talk about prevention.

If you don’t have diabetes, there are many ways to reduce your risk. There are also a lot of lifestyle changes that can help prevent stroke. But, what if you already have diabetes? What can you do to prevent a stroke from happening?

The following tips can help:

Avoid or Quit Smoking

Smoking is not helpful even if you don’t have diabetes, but if you do, it becomes even more dangerous.

Both diabetes and smoking narrow the blood vessels, making it difficult for the blood to circulate effectively to different parts of the body, including the brain.

Hence, to reduce your risk of a stroke, avoid smoking or totally quit the habit.

Manage Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels

Diabetes increases your risk of stroke, especially if you’re suffering from hypertension.

According to reports, high blood pressure can put a strain on the heart, damage the blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart diseases and stroke.

Additionally, increased levels of LDL or “bad cholesterol” can clog the blood vessels with fat deposits.

To prevent stroke, it’s advisable to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels through diet and lifestyle changes.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Weight

In our discussion about the relationship between diabetes and stroke, we have identified that obesity is a major risk factor.

If upon checking your BMI, you observed that you have a higher-than-normal weight, talk to your doctor for the best approach to lose weight.

Generally, transitioning to a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle helps keep your weight within a healthy range.

Key Takeaways

Remember: you can weaken the relationship between diabetes and stroke if you strive to manage the ABCs of living with diabetes.

The ABCs stand for:

A – A1C. Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels through HbA1C or other tests.

B – Blood pressure. Keep your BP within a healthy range.

C – Cholesterol. Find ways to lower your bad cholesterol or LDL.

D – Drugs. Talk to your doctor about medications that can help improve your blood pressure, LDL levels, or other heart conditions.

E – Exercise. Be active and exercise regularly.

S – Stop smoking, as it increases your risk of stroke.

In many reports, “S” also stands for screening and monitoring, as well as self-management wherein you’ll set goals for yourself to keep your blood sugar level in a healthy range.

Finally, the best approach to reduce your risk of stroke while you’re living with diabetes is to talk to your doctor regularly.

Learn more about Diabetes Complications here. 


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

Medically reviewed by

Elfred Landas, MD

General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 18, 2021

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