The risk of stroke is two and one-half times higher in people with diabetes. A stroke is damage to part of the brain tissue as a result of a loss of blood and oxygen. Brain tissue needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to keep nerve cells and other parts of the tissue alive and functioning. The brain cannot store oxygen, so it relies on a network of blood vessels to provide it with blood that is rich in oxygen.

A stroke occurs when one of these blood vessels becomes damaged or blocked, preventing blood from reaching a part of the brain tissue. When the tissue is cut off from its supply of oxygen for more than three to four minutes, it begins to die.

Warning signs

A stroke is a medical emergency. If you experience any of the major stroke warning signs listed below, call 9-1-1. You must get to the hospital immediately.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding words or simple sentences
  • Double vision or decreased vision in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Sudden inability to move part of the body (paralysis)
  • Sudden, unexplainable and intense headache

Treatment

  • Medications — the only FDA approved treatment for acute ischemic (sudden onset) stroke is a thrombolytic agent (TPA) or “clot buster” medication. TPA must be given within the first 3 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. Also, there are several new and experimental drugs that may stop — and even reverse — the brain damage if administered immediately after a stroke
  • Diagnostic tests that help guide the treatments used to prevent a recurrent stroke
  • Changes in diet and lifestyle, as well as medications to treat atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits within the blood vessel walls)
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy – helps in the recovery of strength and ability to perform previous activities
  • Carotid endarterectomy — surgical removal of the plaque within the carotid artery (the artery that supplies blood to the brain)
  • Carotid angioplasty and stenting procedure — less invasive treatment appropriate for some patients who have blockages within the arteries of the brain

Prevention

  • Don’t smoke
  • Have your cholesterol level checked and control your cholesterol level, if necessary, by limiting the amount of fat and cholesterol you eat
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Have your blood pressure checked and control your blood pressure, if necessary
  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions for changing your diet
  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions for preventive medications
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