Can diabetes cause strokes?

Jeffrey Saver, MD

Diabetes increases the risk that a stroke will occur. Diabetes contributes to atherosclerosis (fatty plaque build-up) in arteries carrying blood to the brain. Individuals with diabetes have about three times the risk of stroke than individuals without diabetes.

Farzanna S. Haffizulla, MD
Internal Medicine
Hyperglycemia from uncontrolled diabetes can accelerate cholesterol plaque formation and advance vascular disease at a rate greater than patient's without diabetes.  When these atherosclerotic plaques get deposited inside the arteries they begin to limit and decrease blood flow to organs and vital structures. When this happens to the arteries that supply the brain, ischemic strokes can occur due to the lack/loss of blood flow to brain tissue. Atherosclerotic cholesterol plaques can become unstable due to metabolic and hormonal factors which cause them to rupture allowing our bodies platelets to "clog" the damaged plaque to prevent bleeding but in so doing all blood flow is disrupted and the organ will suffer damage due to lack of oxygen and vital nutients. When this process happens in the brain, it is known as an ischemic stroke which can lead to permanent neurologic deficits. Hemmorhagic strokes caused by bleeding into the brain tissue can also occur because these "diseased"  arteries are more prone to disruption especially when combined with underlying high blood pressure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.