The risk of stroke is two and one-half times higher in people with diabetes. A stroke is damage to part of the brain tissue as a result of a loss of blood and oxygen. Brain tissue needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to keep nerve cells and other parts of the tissue alive and functioning. The brain cannot store oxygen, so it relies on a network of blood vessels to provide it with blood that is rich in oxygen.

A stroke occurs when one of these blood vessels becomes damaged or blocked, preventing blood from reaching a part of the brain tissue. When the tissue is cut off from its supply of oxygen for more than three to four minutes, it begins to die.

Warning signs

A stroke is a medical emergency. If you experience any of the major stroke warning signs listed below, call 9-1-1. You must get to the hospital immediately.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding words or simple sentences
  • Double vision or decreased vision in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Sudden inability to move part of the body (paralysis)
  • Sudden, unexplainable and intense headache


  • Medications — the only FDA approved treatment for acute ischemic (sudden onset) stroke is a thrombolytic agent (TPA) or "clot buster" medication. TPA must be given within the first 4.5 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. Also, there are several new and experimental drugs that may stop — and even reverse — the brain damage if administered immediately after a stroke
  • Diagnostic tests that help guide the treatments used to prevent a recurrent stroke
  • Changes in diet and lifestyle, as well as medications to treat atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits within the blood vessel walls)
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy – helps in the recovery of strength and ability to perform previous activities
  • Carotid endarterectomy — surgical removal of the plaque within the carotid artery (the artery that supplies blood to the brain)
  • Carotid angioplasty and stenting procedure — less invasive treatment appropriate for some patients who have blockages of the arteries leading to the brain


  • Don't smoke
  • Have your cholesterol level checked. Control your cholesterol level, if necessary, by limiting the amount of fat and cholesterol you eat and/or by taking medications prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Monitor your blood pressure. Control your blood pressure, if necessary, with diet and medications.
  • Follow your health care provider's instructions for changing your diet
  • Follow your health care provider's instructions for preventive medications
  • Exercise

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/18/2014...#9812