Can Diabetes Lead To Stroke? | Heart Health Blog

Diabetes in Middle Age May Mean Stroke Later On


Article Summary:

  • People with diabetes in their 40s or 50s have a 30% higher risk of ischemic stroke in their 60s
  • Elevated blood glucose levels from diabetes may cause blood vessels in the brain to narrow
  • Prevent diabetes naturally with lifestyle improvements that include eating more fiber and managing stress better

Can Diabetes Increase Your Risk of Stroke?

Everyone knows that type 2 diabetes is a serious, largely self-inflicted disease; yet despite that knowledge, it is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States. Diabetes is linked to all kinds of health issues, including nerve damage, kidney failure, and damage to the retina that can lead to blindness. Now, new research adds to the evidence that diabetes may also contribute to stroke over time.

The study, which was conducted at Tianjin Medical University in China, found that having type 2 diabetes during middle age is associated with an increased risk of having a stroke as a senior.1Yang, Rongrong; et al. “Type 2 diabetes in midlife and risk of cerebrovascular disease in late life: a prospective nested case-control study in a nationwide Swedish twin cohort.” Diabetologia. 5 June 2019. Accessed 12 June 2019. These results are based on data gathered from the Swedish Twin Registry and included more than 33,000 men and women born prior to 1958. None of the subjects had experienced a stroke or showed signs of narrowed blood vessels in the brain before the age of 60.

Close to four percent of the participants had been diagnosed with diabetes by the time they were in their 40s or 50s. However, after reaching their 60s, more than nine percent had undergone a stroke or had a narrowing of brain blood vessels. And those with type 2 diabetes were 30 percent more likely to experience an ischemic stroke after the age of 60. Ischemic strokes are the most common kind of stroke, occurring when a blockage forms in a blood vessel of the brain, reducing or blocking blood flow to the surrounding area.

How Diabetes Increases Your Stroke Risk

The research wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect, but it certainly demonstrated a clear association between midlife diabetes and later stroke risk. But why would diabetes increase the chance of having an ischemic stroke? The answer isn’t entirely clear, but it may be due at least in part to diabetes’ effect on blood vessels throughout the body.

When blood glucose levels rise too high, it can contribute to a buildup of fatty deposits or clots within blood vessels throughout the body. Depending on where these buildups occur, this can lead to complications such as vision problems and heart disease, and it likely also affects the blood vessels of the brain. If they become narrowed as a result of excessive blood glucose levels, that could explain why the probability of an ischemic stroke rises over time.

Protecting Yourself from Diabetes and Stroke

The good news is that even if you suffer from type 2 diabetes, it is a manageable condition, and you might be able to improve your health to eliminate it completely. Diabetes is a major risk factor for stroke, as is high blood pressure, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. But those very same things are also risk factors for diabetes, as is being overweight, inactivity, and having a family history of the condition.

Ultimately, if you prevent diabetes, you will also lower your stroke risk considerably. You can start by increasing your fiber intake to between 25 and 29 grams daily. You might have a way to go, since the average American only consumes 15 grams of fiber each day. But a 2019 study at the University of Otago in New Zealand showed that greater amounts of dietary fiber are linked to a 16 percent reduction in the chance of developing diabetes. You can up your daily fiber consumption easily and deliciously by adding raspberries, artichokes, lentils, and other high-fiber foods to your diet.

Another suggestion is to get your stress level under control. You may not be able to avoid stress completely, but you can learn how to handle it much better. Prolonged stress causes the body to release the hormone cortisol, which raises blood sugar levels even in those without diabetes. To better manage stress, take up mindful meditation, spend downtime relaxing with friends and loved ones, and supplement with a natural stress remedy that includes herbs like St. John’s wort, ashwagandha, and L-theanine.

You also might want to consider adding a sugar metabolic enhancement formula to your daily regimen to help mitigate many of the effects of consuming too many high-glycemic carbs in your diet.


1 Yang, Rongrong; et al. “Type 2 diabetes in midlife and risk of cerebrovascular disease in late life: a prospective nested case-control study in a nationwide Swedish twin cohort.” Diabetologia. 5 June 2019. Accessed 12 June 2019.