SHREVEPORT, La. -- “Diabetic patients have two to three times higher risk of having a stroke compared to non-diabetic patients,” said Dr. Syed Abbas, a vascular neurologist with Willis Knighton Health System.
The reason? People with Type 2 diabetes have a sustained high level of glucose in their blood. That can lead to plaque formation in the neck and brain arteries.
A stroke is the result of an interruption of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blocked artery, oftentimes from a blood clot. A hemorrhagic stroke is one caused by the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel. In both types, brain cells start to die in minutes.
In 2018, 10.2% of the U.S. population was diagnosed with diabetes.
Abbas said for diabetic patients, the best way to prevent a stroke is to manage their diabetes.
“That’s really a multidisciplinary approach. If they are hypertensive, they have to make sure that their high blood pressure is well controlled," Abbas said.
Healthy diet and life choices play a large factor as well.
“Having a more Mediterranean diet using more fruits and vegetables, or weight loss if you have especially a BMI of more than 25,” he said. “And if you're a smoker, smoking with diabetes highly increases your risk of having a stroke. So, we do advise patients to stop smoking.”
Heavy alcohol consumption is also a risk factor.
“That also increases your risk of a stroke, especially if you’re diabetic," Abbas said.
High blood glucose makes having a stroke even more dangerous.
“If they have a very high blood glucose levels, then actually it could be associated with higher risk of morbidity and mortality, if the patient is coming in with a stroke,” said Abbas.
It can also make the doctor’s job more difficult. Sometimes symptoms of high blood glucose can look like a stroke.
“We know that glucose, more than 400 milligrams in a person, itself can give rise to stroke-like symptoms," he said.
Abbas said he once had a patient who came to the emergency room with a glucose reading of 500 with total right-side weakness. But once they controlled the glucose level, the stroke symptoms subsided as well.
So, the bottom line is manage the diabetes to help prevent a stroke.
“It will help us at the end of the day to better manage a stroke and the stroke-associated morbidity and mortality. Because it can change the patient’s life," Abbas said.