Years of Diabetes Raises the Risk of Stroke

Doctors have known for a long time that having the disease diabetes makes you more likely to have a stroke.  Now the first study to be carried out into the relationship between the amount of time a person has had diabetes and the risk of stroke suggests it may triple the dangers.  People who have lived with diabetes for ten years or more have three times the risk of stroke.

Diabetes harms organs, tissues and functions in the body because constantly raised blood sugar causes damage.  If the diabetic is not good at managing his condition, and regularly allows blood sugar levels to fluctuate, the damage will start to tot up.  A diabetic, who manages his symptoms well, meets his targets, loses weight and keeps blood sugar levels lower and steady, is far less likely to incur the serious side effects of his disease.  These include damage to all sorts of organs, notably the heart and kidneys, and the increased risk of strokes.  In addition, the longer a person has lived with diabetes, the more these risks increase.

Researchers working on the Northern Manhattan Study followed 3,298 patients with an average age of 69, following up their cases after nine years.  The subjects were chosen because they had never had a stroke, and 22% of them were type 2 diabetics.  By the end of the study, another 10% had also developed diabetes.

The team controlled for other factors such as raised cholesterol and blood pressure, smoking, a history of heart attacks and the lifestyle the patients led – active or sedentary.  They found that in people who had been living with diabetes for ten years or more the risk of stroke rose by 300%.

Those living with the disease for shorter times also had a raised risk, with people who had been diabetic for less than five years having a 70% increase and those who had been diabetic for 5-10 years an 80% increase.  The type of stroke they were at risk from was ischemic stroke, which is the type caused when a blot clot or other obstruction blocks blood flow to the brain.

Stroke rates are declining in the population generally, as medical advances mean better testing and better therapies for conditions like hypertension.  However, with diabetes on the increase the rate of strokes among people with the disease is likely to go up.  26 million Americans have diabetes, and this figure is rising all the time due to western lifestyles and the rising numbers of overweight and obese people.  Statistics show more than half of all diabetics in the US are now under the age of 65, where the disease used to be a condition usually encountered in old age.

Getting the disease earlier in life means the time you are likely to be living with it increases, and the risk of the side effects associated with diabetes goes up.  Where an elderly people in their late seventies or eighties may not have to live with the disease for long, a person under 65 could be looking forward to another 20 years of diabetes, which would increase many health risks.

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