Sugar Matters
September 20, 2011
What’s going on inside your head?

Sure, you could make all sorts of cute jokes about “having sweet thoughts” when we start discussing the effects of diabetes on your brain. But joking aside, this is quite serious. This week I will focus on the biggest, ugliest effect of diabetes on the brain: increased risk of stroke.{{more}}

Yes, diabetes is very strongly related to strokes. If you have diabetes, your chances of having a stroke are 2 to 4 times higher than if you do not have diabetes. Worried yet? Here’s another one: if you do have a stroke and have diabetes as well, your chances of dying from that stroke are almost 3 times higher than for someone without diabetes. This disease is not playing around.

What exactly is a stroke? Generally a stroke refers to damage to the brain when it does not receive enough blood flow or oxygen, usually when blood vessels get blocked, or leak blood. Blood vessels are like roads leading to parts of the brain, so if that road gets blocked off or damaged, then a part of the brain suffers. Specific parts of the brain tend to be responsible for certain activities, such as speech, or movement of a body part. Strokes can produce effects that are small and temporary, called transient ischemic attacks, where you regain everything and go back to normal a few hours later. They can also be massive and cause you to permanently lose function of half your body, or even die. Some types of strokes can be treated if caught early, but this often requires being near an advanced medical center, where you can be given specific medications and watched closely. Otherwise, the best way to handle possibilities of a stroke are preventive: stay as healthy as possible, treating your diabetes and high blood pressure as directed and taking an aspirin every day if you can tolerate it.

Signs of a stroke include:

  • Confusion
  • Not being able to speak, slurring your words
  • Not understanding what someone is saying
  • Weakness anywhere on the body
  • Drooping face, mouth, eyelid
  • Passing out, falling, unable to stand
  • Sudden blindness or blurring of vision
  • Can’t do a normal activity, like hold a pen or spoon


This topic lies very close to my heart. As many of you know, my grandmother Joyce Jones died of complications related to a stroke. She was a vibrant, glorious woman, one of the strongest people I have ever been blessed to have in my life. She loved us in actions and words, and the stroke took that away from her and from us, even before she passed away. She was left unable to speak or understand clearly, as well as being weak. My grandmother is one big reason why I write this column every week: because I have family I love, who are also fighting this disease and who have had strokes touch their doorstep, but give them a second chance. Because St.Vincent and the Grenadines, my home, is full of grandmothers, mothers, aunties, uncles, daughters, sisters, sons, brothers, and friends, whose lives will also be devastated by strokes one day, if we do not try our best to get this disease under control.

Yes, it is hard work. But it is worth it.

Until next week, stay safe and healthy Vincies.

Anita Ramsetty, MD [email protected]
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group
Tel: 843-798-4227