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Diabetes and stroke: What is the connection?

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Diabetes, the condition that affects how the body uses blood sugar (glucose) is a known risk factor for stroke, but how are the two conditions connected?

How diabetes can cause a stroke

Diabetes can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a condition which the walls of the arteries become thick and narrow due to the build up of plaque, which makes it harder for blood to flow through the arteries, thus increasing the risk of stroke.

Diabetes can also increase the risk of other health conditions which can cause a stroke.

Condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, all of which can cause stroke, can have an increased risk due to diabetes.

Managing diabetes to reduce stroke risk

There are a few steps a person with diabetes can take, in order to reduce their risk of stroke.

Make sure you are in control of your blood sugar levels; work with your healthcare professionals to develop a diabetes management plan which includes regular monitoring of your blood sugar levels and taking medications as prescribed.

Closely manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as both of these conditions can contribute to atherosclerosis and increase the risk of stroke as a consequence.

Try to maintain a healthy weight, this is due to obesity being a risk factor for both diabetes and stroke. Eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise will help to lower your stroke risk.

Avoid smoking, as this can cause added damage to blood vessels which your diabetes could already be causing and thus cause a heavy increase in risk of stroke. 

As stroke and diabetes are closely associated, with individuals with diabetes being at a higher risk of stroke than those without. It is important to be able to recognise the signs of stroke (FAST) and take steps in order to manage diabetes, as this will reduce the risk of stroke and improve health overall.

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