You probably know that your risk of stroke is higher if you have diabetes. Now a March 2012 study from the journal Stroke finds that the risk of ischemic stroke, caused by blocked blood flow to the brain, increases 3 percent each year after the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The risk triples for people who have diabetes for 10 years or more.
The research, which includes men and women from three racial groups (Hispanic, white and black), yielded findings similar to previous research from the Nurses’ Health study of predominantly white women. Both suggest the greatest stroke risk after 10 years of diabetes.
In this study, part of the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), researchers followed 3,298 people (average age 69) who had never had a stroke. Roughly, a third had type 2 diabetes or later developed it. During the course of the study, 244 ischemic strokes occurred.
Researchers suggest the reasons for the increased stroke risk may include thicker plaque in neck arteries, high blood pressure, blood vessel complications, microalbuminuria (above-normal level of the protein albumin in the urine), and clotting abnormalities.
Strategies for Preventing Stroke
Delaying the onset of diabetes is the most important strategy. If you have diabetes risk factors, such as overweight or obesity, now is the time to take actions, such as eating healthier, exercising more and losing weight. If you smoke, quit. Partner with your doctor, a dietitian, an exercise trainer and other health professionals to reach your goals.
If you already have diabetes, talk to your doctor about stroke prevention. Keeping your blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure levels on target may help you delay some diabetes complications.
Also familiarize yourself with stroke warning signs. Seeking immediate medical attention reduces the chances of lasting damage and disability.
Lycopene, a phytochemical found in tomatoes, reduced stroke risk in men ages 46 to 65 who participated in a study in Finland. To get your fill, researchers recommend eating at least one serving of tomatoes per day, from tomato sauce, tomato juice, even ketchup. (Talk to your doctor and look for lower sodium productsmany are high in salt.) Better yet, slice up a fresh tomato and add it to your favorite heart-healthy sandwich or salad.
Elkind, et al. “Duration of Diabetes and Risk of Ischemic Stroke: The Northern Manhattan Study.” Stroke. Published online before print March 1, 2012, doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.641381.
News release. Long-time diabetics have increased risk of stroke. American Heart Association. March 1, 2012.
Our sister publication Diabetes Focus Spring 2013