Stroke in diabetes is a serious complication. A person suffers a stroke when blood flow is cut off from an area of the brain. This results in a neurological symptom, depending on the area of the brain involved.
Symptoms of Stroke
The usual symptoms of a stroke include weakness in the leg, arm, or an entire side of the body. Sometimes, one side of the face is affected, causing slurred speech, difficulty in swallowing, and deviation of the angle of the mouth to one side. Sometimes, a stroke may cause blurry vision, imbalance, confusion, and even lack of consciousness.
About 50% of stroke survivors live with permanent disabilities such as difficulty in walking, impaired speech, difficulty in self-care, and memory loss. Many stroke survivors
visit the hospital numerous times with all sorts of medical problems including frequent pneumonias, recurrent strokes, heart attacks, and bedsores. Most become depressed. Their families also experience physical, emotional, and economic turmoil. Prevention of stroke is the key to this huge medical and psychosocial problem.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. The general assumption that stroke is a disease of old age is not a reliable nor an accurate view. A lot of people under the age of sixty-five have strokes. The incidence of stroke more than doubles for each decade after the age of fifty-five.
Different Types of Stroke
There are three types of strokes:
- Ischemic strokes
- Embolic strokes
- Hemorrhagic strokes
Ischemic strokes are the most common. These strokes take place when a blood clot forms in an already narrowed blood vessel of the brain. A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is a minor ischemic stroke.
An embolic stroke occurs when a blood clot forms inside the heart, dislodges, travels to the brain, and blocks a small blood vessel there.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is bleeding inside the brain.
Risk For Stroke
You are at risk for a stroke if you have any of the following risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the higher the risk of
having a stroke.
- Older than forty-five years old
- Overweight, especially around the waistline. This is also called abdominal obesity (waistline more than 35 inches in women and more than 38 inches in men; among Asians, these
numbers are 32 inches for women and 35 inches for men).
- High blood pressure (more than 130/85 mm Hg)
- Low HDL cholesterol (less than 50 mg/dl in females; less than 40 mg/dl in males)
- High triglycerides (more than 150 mg/dl)
- Atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat)
- Family history of stroke
These risk factors usually don’t cause any symptoms. A stroke or a heart attack is usually the first symptom. People want to ignore these risk factors as long as they feel fine. They don’t understand that by the time they have symptoms, the quality of their life may never be the same.
Most Type 2 diabetic patients have abdominal obesity, high level of triglycerides, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and high blood pressure. All of these metabolic disorders are major risk factors for a stroke. Again, collectively, these disorders are known as Insulin Resistance Syndrome.
In my practice, I often see middle-aged diabetic patients with high blood pressure. When I tell them they have high blood pressure and need drug therapy, they look surprised and question my diagnosis of hypertension. Sometimes they say, “But my other physician didn’t say any thing about it” or “Last month I had it checked at the free screening at the pharmacy and they said it was fine.” My favorite line is, “My blood pressure is high because I’m in your office.”
Accepting the diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol disorder means that your body is no longer perfect and you must do something about it. Some people take the ostrich approach. They stick their head in the sand and hope it goes away. It’s easier to be in denial than to face reality. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol disorder need your attention. Don’t ignore them.
Strokes are preventable. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment of the risk factors is the key to the prevention of a stroke. In most Type 2 diabetic patients, a stroke occurs due to narrowing of the blood vessels in the neck and/or in the brain.
Excerpts from my book,” Reverse Your Type 2 Diabetes Scientifically“