Risk of stroke triples when living with diabetes 10 years or longer

Living with type 2 diabetes for 10 years or more triples the risk of stroke compared to people without diabetes, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Each year, having type 2 diabetes increases the risk of stroke three percent compared to people without diabetes, according to the American Heart Association.

The study analyzed data on nearly 3,300 participants with an average age of 69 years. None had ever had a stroke. At the beginning of the study, 22 percent had type 2 diabetes. Nine years later, an additional 10 percent had developed the disease.

High increases in risk of stroke for diabetes patients

Researchers found that the risk of stroke increased 70 percent in people who had diabetes for less than five years. For people living with diabetes for five to 10 years, the risk of stroke increased to 80 percent. In their analysis, researchers considered age, smoking history, physical activity, history of heart disease, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Diabetes is a known risk factor for stroke. Thicker plaque in neck arteries caused by long-term diabetes is one reason for the increased risk. Others include the higher prevalence of hypertension, accelerated vascular complications and clotting abnormalities in people with diabetes, according to the study.

The chronic nature of diabetes

“The findings emphasize the chronic nature of diabetes and the fact that it damages the blood vessels over time,” said Mitchell S. V. Elkind, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center and senior author of the study.

Elkind said that the worldwide increase in diabetes cases may eventually lead to a higher rate of strokes, which had been declining overall.

If current trends continue, the International Diabetes Federation projects that one adult in every ten in the world with have diabetes by 2030. That’s an increase of almost 10 million cases a year.

Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes. About seven million of those cases are undiagnosed, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The onset of type 2 diabetes may be four to seven years prior to actual diagnosis, according to the American Heart Association.

Said Elkind,

“If how long a person has diabetes matters, young people with a long history of diabetes are more likely to develop complications earlier in life. It’s possible that people with diabetes may start having strokes at a younger age."

Delaying diabetes onset

Elkind encourages people to delay the onset of diabetes with healthy lifestyle choices.

People can delay and possibly prevent developing type 2 diabetes by losing five to seven percent of total body weight, according to CDC. It recommends achieving this goal through 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week and healthier eating.

Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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