Diabetic stroke – what to do and how to avoid one

Diabetic stroke - time kills brain cells

One of the scariest parts of having diabetes is the increased chances of having a stroke or heart attack. Personally I am terrified of having a diabetic stroke. It is just another reason to really look after your health and manage your diabetes as well as possible.

It is important to be able to recognize the signs you have had a stroke or are about to have one. Knowing these warning signs may save your life or the life of someone close to you. Obviously all diabetics need to manage their blood sugar levels. If you maintain reasonably healthy blood sugar levels your chances of having a diabetic stroke are greatly diminished.

What happens when you have a stroke?

When you have a stroke your brain is not getting the blood and or oxygen that it needs. When you are diabetic the chances that the vessels or arteries carrying blood to the brain are already damaged in some way, that is why it has been estimated that diabetics are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack in their lifetime. When you have a stroke you have about 4 minutes without blood or oxygen to the cells in your brain before they may be permanently damaged which may lead to death.

Diabetic stroke symptomsDiabetic stroke FAST test

Use the FAST test to evaluate whether you or someone you know has had a diabetic stroke.

Face – check one side of your face, has it dropped?

Arms – can you lift both of your arms?

Speech – can you say a simple sentence “Hello my name is _”

Time – Is absolutely crucial. If you see any of these warning signs call an ambulance straight away!!

Other symptoms may include

  • Weakness or numbness down one side of your body, especially in the face or leg or arm
  • Trouble with speech
  • Difficultly understanding/ general confusion
  • Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
  • A severe headache that comes and goes for no apparent reason.
  • Loss of coordination
  • Difficulty swallowing

Diabetic stroke - brain damage over time

How to avoid having a stroke

It is estimated that 80% of strokes can be prevented. That should give hope to all of us that are considered high risk of having a diabetic stroke.There are some obvious action steps we can all take to avoid having a stroke. High blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes, so if you are a diabetic with high blood pressure your chances of having a stroke are high. You need to get your blood pressure around the magical 120 over 80 level. Avoiding salt and high cholesterol foods is a great place to start. Changing your diet and exercise regime is the best method for reducing the chances of having a stroke. Maintaining a healthy weight is also a must as obesity is also a leading cause of strokes. Smoking cigarettes is an obvious decision that you can make to put yourself at less risk. Drinking in moderation is also something you can do. Interestingly one glass of alcohol per day may actually lessen your chances of having a stroke. Anything more than that increases your chances. Please see my article on alcohol and diabetes.


The thought of being completely incapacitated for the rest of my life is horrifying to say the least. Unfortunately 1 in 6 of us will suffer a stroke in our lifetime. As with almost all conclusions on this blog it all comes down to managing your blood sugar levels. It also comes down to managing your diet and exercise. Check out my article on breakfast ideas for diabetics. If you are a diabetic with high blood pressure be extra careful. Quit smoking. As mentioned 80% of strokes could have been avoided.

Have you had a diabetic stroke previously? I would love to hear from you if you have…

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  1. Liz

    It is always comforting to know that diet and exercise can prevent not only diabetic strokes, but also so many other diseases and health emergency situations. Society doesn’t make it easy to stick to healthy eating and exercise due to the many competing demands on our time. But people just have to make it a top priority. I had not actually considered the possibility that having diabetes increased your chance of having a stroke, so I have learned something new here.

    1. Ben (Post author)

      It’s true Liz. Brand names & time restrictions can make your dieting options extremely difficult. Thanks for reading!

  2. Ben


    This a great post creating awareness for something that is a lot more common than you might think.

    A girl that works in my office recently had a stroke and she is on 23, it was very scary and she is ok now but I couldn’t believe it could happen to someone so young.

    1. Ben (Post author)

      Wow Ben. Was she is diabetic by any chance?


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