A new study shows that having diabetes for 10 years or more triples the risk of stroke, according to the American Heart Association. The findings emphasize the chronic nature of diabetes and the need to educate young people about the disease and how to prevent it.
As part of the Northern Manhattan Study, researchers followed 3,298 people (average age 69) who had never had a stroke. Nearly 22% of participants had diabetes at the start of the study. After an average 9 years of follow-up, an additional 10% developed diabetes. Compared with participants without diabetes, those with the disease were at increased risk. Specifically, the authors found the risk increases 3% each year, and triples with diabetes at 10 years.
Some of the reasons for increased stroke risk may include an association between longer diabetes duration and thicker plaque in neck arteries and the higher prevalence of hypertension, accelerated vascular complications, and clotting abnormalities in people with diabetes.
The onset of diabetes may be 4 to 7 years earlier than diagnosis, the authors say. Among the nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes, more than half are younger than 65, and the age of diagnosis is "getting younger and younger because of the obesity problem among young people."
"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," says Mitchell S. V. Elkind, MD, MS, the study's senior author. "It's possible that people with diabetes may start having strokes at a younger age."
Full text of the study is published online ahead of print in Stroke.
APTA offers members physical fitness pocket guides for survivors of stroke and people with type 2 diabetes.