Is There A Link Between Stroke And Diabetes
One evening in late April, I was driving back home from work. My wife called me and told me that she receive a frantic call from her mom, who lives in west coast, about her father wired behavior. We thought is it the usual reaction to his sleep deprivation or adjusting to the jetlag or his reaction to his low blood sugar. But turnout he had several strokes and he was rushed to the hospital. By then the damage is done. His brain was oxygen deprived and he lost a part of his brain which controls the left side muscle moment and motor skills. I started researching the link between stroke and diabetes.
The findings were shocking enough. Read on to learn more about the connection between stroke and diabetes.
What is a stroke?
One of the blood vessels that supply oxygen to your brain will become blocked or damaged and cause a stroke. It is really an oxygen deprivation to your brain. If the blood cut to the brain for more than 4 minutes that part of the brain slowly dies. This affects your body functionality as it immediately affects your speech, movement of your limbs and muscles. Sometime this functionality will be substituted by other parts of the brain. But in most cases it affects the brain so much you will lose your motor skills almost immediately.
There are two types of strokes:
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This type strokes are caused by a ruptured artery. Mostly result in a blood clot.
- Ischemic stroke: This type of strokes are result from a blocked artery. This can cause temporary to permanent disability in body functioning.
How can I identify a stroke?
I was so unlucky to see both type of stokes in my family.
What I learned recently was, with my personal experience, the first symptom will be a sever headache.
My father in law was diabetic and he had headaches for past two years. It is a severe headache with an uncommon dizzy feeling. What we don’t know, or were never communicated is that he also experienced numbness. Every time he get one of his headaches the blood pressure shot up. We all thought it is due to the low blood sugar as he is diabetic. We gave him some sugar and he will be alright in 2 hours time. We eventually learned on 28th of April 2015, when he had a severe stroke which paralyzed his left side functionality. Which including his left eye, left side of the mouth, speech impact, leg and hand. As of the time of this article, he was in acute rehab recovering his body functionality.
Sometime it can happen immediately. However in most cases this is a slow buildup of plaque in the arteries. If the type of stroke is Ischemic Stroke, the symptoms shows up early including severe headache and numbness in your hands/legs. Note that not all headache or numbness result in stroke but if you see these 2 symptoms together you must immediately consult a doctor.
My maternal grandmother had a hemorrhagic stroke in 1997 at the age of 72. She was a Hypertension patient. She was taking medication for at least 4 years when this happened. She had a penny sized clot in her left brain which resulted in multiple strokes, hallucination, and slow paralysis. She was a high risk patient to an open brain surgery so doctors did not dare to operate. Her hemorrhage was resulted by the in effective dose of medicine. Unfortunately we lost her within couple of months this occurred.
Now you know the motivation and obsession for this blog. I am just trying to save myself and share what I learned.
What Is Atherosclerosis?
Hardening and narrowing of arteries is called Atherosclerosis. This is a very silent process that slowly cuts the blood supply to the vital organs, especially brain. There are no symptoms that can identify this disease.
How Diabetes Help Stroke?
There are enough studies proved that there is a link between stroke and diabetes. Diabetes can also make it harder for your body to respond to a stroke. When your oxygen supply is cut off, other arteries can usually serve as a bypass. But if you have diabetes, those vessels may be hardened or clogged with plaque, a condition known as atherosclerosis. This makes it harder for blood to get to your brain. In general, the risk of stroke increases significantly with diabetes.
How Can I Identify or Avoid Such Stroke?
I would suggest to see a doctor immediately if you see any of the below symptoms.
- Sudden, unexplainable, and intense headache
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
- Trouble speaking or understanding words or simple sentences
- Sudden blurred vision or worse vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble swallowing
- Dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
- Brief loss of consciousness
- Sudden inability to move part of the body (paralysis)
What Treatment Options Available
Timing is important in such life threatening emergencies. Contact your doctor (if you live in USA dial 911 to get help quickly).
If the stroke is of ischemic type there is a drug called tPA. This is a clot-buster which help you if you can take it within 3 hours from the time the stroke occurred. But there are limitations on who can take this drug. If you have a major surgery in the past 2 years you can’t take this drug.
Also, several new and experimental drugs may stop and even reverse brain damage if taken immediately after a stroke.
Other treatment options include a surgery called carotid endarterectomy to remove plaque from inside your carotid artery.
Another treatment is known as carotid angioplasty and stenting. Doctors insert a deflated balloon into the artery to expand its walls.
They follow it with a mesh structure, the stent, which holds the artery open. This procedure may not be as effective, especially if you have diabetes.
There are other ways to remove a blood clot in the brain. The FDA has approved the Merci Retrieval System and the Penumbra System for certain people. These devices can remove a blood clot after the stroke.
How To Prevent Stroke
- This is a pretty common checklist you need to run through
- Control Your Blood Sugar levels.
- Maintain Healthy Weight.
- Get your LDL cholesterol checked regularly.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Have your blood pressure checked.
- Ask your doctor about preventive medication
- I learned from the doc that some people with diabetes will be benefited from aspirin. I was also told that after 40 years old, if you have a family history of diabetes, check with your doctor and take the low dosages of aspirin (baby aspirin).
- Do regular exercise
- Try to rest in short naps if you can not sleep for 8 hours straight ( mostly for the aged type 2 diabetic patients)