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Stroke Smart Magazine

Spring 2010

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It’s Up to You!
Take Control of Diabetes to Prevent Stroke, Heart Disease

It’s rare to go a week without hearing something in the news about diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 24 million Americans have diabetes and another 57 million Americans have pre-diabetes, a condition that can lead to diabetes. Additionally, it is estimated that one in three children born in the year 2000 could develop diabetes if current trends continue. But what is diabetes? Why is it so serious and what does it have to do with stroke?

In order for blood glucose  another word for sugar to get into our cells and muscles to give our bodies energy, it needs insulin. Insulin is made in our pancreas and acts like a key that opens the door of the cells and muscles to let the glucose in, lowering the blood glucose. Diabetes occurs when the body does not make or use insulin correctly to change food into energy. As a result, the glucose from food gets stuck in the bloodstream causing the blood glucose to remain high.

High blood glucose levels, in time, cause the body to place more fat on the inside of the blood vessel walls. This fat build-up can affect blood flow in the vessels or cause the vessel or the walls of the vessels to become hard. This build-up or hardening in the vessels can restrict the flow of blood to the brain, causing stroke.

If blood glucose levels are not managed, diabetes can cause a lot of damage to the body.  The National institute for Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) notes that people with diabetes are not only at higher risk for stroke, heart and kidney disease but they also develop these conditions at earlier ages than people without diabetes. 

There are several things that people with diabetes can do to reduce their risk of a stroke.  First is to control blood glucose under a doctors care. Keeping the blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible over time reduces the risk of having a stroke and developing other diabetes complications.  Typically, people with diabetes test their blood sugar levels daily as prescribed by their doctors. Some diabetics take insulin shots and/or oral diabetes medications. Some factors can be controlled by lifestyles changes; others need medication. You should always consult with your health care provider to determine the best method of controlling your diabetes.

Important steps to lowering the risk for stroke include:

  •  Lowering blood pressure.
  •  Lowering cholesterol levels.
  •  Quitting smoking.
  •  Getting physical activity daily.
  •  Eating a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. 

If lifestyle adjustments aren’t enough, your doctor will be able to prescribe medication. Each case of diabetes is as unique as the person it affects and it is critical to follow your doctor’s directions in the treatment and prevention of diabetes. Taking steps to control your diabetes and prevent stroke is up to you.


Tips to manage diabetes and reduce risk for stroke:

  • Find ways to sneak physical activity into your daily routine: park farther away at the grocery store, get up and move around during the commercials of your favorite programs, meet a friend for a walk instead of a meal.
  • Eat less fried food: you don’t have to give up all fried foods forever, but reduce the amount of fried food you eat. For example, if you currently eat fried foods three times a week, start by reducing to twice a week.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables: pack an apple or other fruit for a snack, add fruit to your cereal, oatmeal or yogurt.
  • If you take medicine for blood pressure, blood sugar and/or cholesterol, take your it as prescribed.
  • See your doctor regularly.


Learn more about diabetes

The following Web sites and organizations are great places to get more information:


Sarah Piper, MPH, CDE, is Diabetes Education Coordinator for the Diabetes Association of Atlanta


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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