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Diabetes and Stroke 101

You can live a long and healthy life with diabetes, but it's important to know that having diabetes can increase your risk for having a stroke, even if you are otherwise healthy. Diabetes can damage your blood vessels and keep oxygen from reaching your brain. A stroke occurs when an area of the brain doesn't receive enough oxygen. However, you can reduce your risk. Learn the warning signs of a stroke, such as sudden numbness in your face, arm, or leg, and check out ways to reduce your risk and stay healthy by controlling your blood sugar, eating right, and regularly exercising.

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If you have diabetes, your risk of having a stroke is greater than that of someone without diabetes, even if you are otherwise healthy. Here's why: Diabetes can damage your blood vessels, so they are more prone to blockage. Your brain needs oxygen to survive. When you have a stroke, one or more of the blood vessels that delivers oxygen to the brain has become blocked. Also, with diabetes, the blood is thicker and more prone to clotting, thus slowing or blocking circulation.

In addition, those with diabetes who suffer strokes often have a worse prognosis than those without diabetes. When the oxygen to the brain is blocked, other arteries can sometimes bypass the blockage and get enough oxygen to the brain. If you have diabetes, you may have blocked or narrow arteries that are less able to come to the rescue.

How Do I Know When I'm Having a Stroke?

You can improve your odds of surviving a stroke by knowing the symptoms.

Signs of a stroke include sudden onset of any of the following: numbness (especially on one side, of your face, arm, or leg), paralysis in one part of the body, blurred vision or trouble swallowing, intense headache, difficulty speaking or understanding what is being said, and a brief period of unconsciousness. Call 911 as soon as possible if you or someone you are with experiences any of these symptoms.

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