Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the world. It can cause many health complications and is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke (1). But the level of risk is influenced by a number of factors, including the type of diabetes, a person’s age, sex and where they live. Here are a few interesting facts about diabetes and stroke:
1. Diabetics are 2-6 times more likely to have a stroke
Excess blood sugar has a devastating effect on all the blood vessels in the body, especially the brain. In fact, diabetic patients are 2-6 times more susceptible to a stroke event and, the risk is even higher for younger people, or those who already have other health problems, such as high cholesterol (2).
2. 97% of diabetic stroke happens to patients with Type 2 diabetes
There are three different types of diabetes. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in childhood or during teenage years. This occurs when your body can’t produce any insulin and often runs in families. Type 2 develops when your body can’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t react to it in the right way. This tends to affect older adults.
The third type is gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy and often resolves on its own. Around 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2. Therefore, it’s no surprise that around 97% of diabetic strokes happen to this group of patients (3).
3. Risk of stroke is four times higher for Type 1 diabetics
Despite the fact that more people in the world have Type 2 diabetes than Type 1, the latter are four times more likely to have a stroke (3). However, cardiovascular disease, which includes stroke, is a major cause of death and disability in people with both Type 1 (44 per cent of all deaths) and Type 2 diabetes (52 per cent of all deaths) (4).
4. Younger patients are 16 times more likely to have a stroke
In correlation with the growing number of Type 2 diagnoses around the world, there has been an alarming increase in the number of young patients diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Studies show younger patients with Type 1 diabetes, aged 15-34, are 16 times more likely to have a stroke than members of the general population (5). One study also showed younger patients with Type 2 diabetes, aged 30-44 years, also had a higher relative risk for stroke compared to older patients (6).
5. Diabetes is set to increase by 69% in developing countries
The number of people with diabetes is expected to increase to 439 million worldwide by 2030 (7). This includes a 69% rise in developing countries and a 20% rise in developed nations. At least 1 in 5 adults now has Type 2 diabetes, which has been directly attributed to a rise in obesity, especially in younger adults (8). Diabetes affects people in both rural and urban settings too, with 64% of cases in urban areas and 36% in rural (9).
Listening to the facts about diabetes and stroke can be concerning. But it’s important to remember that Type 2 diabetes, the most common of all, is largely preventable by making a few lifestyle changes. Stop smoking, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to help keep your blood sugar levels under control and reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and stroke.
2. Almdal T, Scharling H, Jensen JS, Vestergaard H. The independent effect of type 2 diabetes mellitus on ischemic heart disease, stroke, and death: a population-based study of 13,000 men and women with 20 years of follow-up. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(13):1422–6.
3. Janghorbani M, Hu FB, Willett WC, Li TY, Manson JE, Logroscino G, Rexrode KM. Prospective study of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and risk of stroke subtypes: the Nurses’ Health Study. Diabetes Care. 2007;30(7):1730–5.
5. Sundquist K, Li X. Type 1 diabetes as a risk factor for stroke in men and women aged 15–49: a nationwide study from Sweden. Diabet Med. 2006;23(11):1261–7.
6. Jeerakathil T, Johnson JA, Simpson SH, Majumdar SR. Short-term risk for stroke is doubled in persons with newly treated type 2 diabetes compared with persons without diabetes: a population-based cohort study. Stroke. 2007;38(6):1739–43.
7. Heidenreich PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123:933–944.
8. Putaala J, Liebkind R, Gordin D, et al. Diabetes mellitus and ischemic stroke in the young: clinical features and long-term prognosis. Neurology. 2011;76:1831–1837.