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Diabetes and Risk of Stroke, an Inside Look at the Dangers and Warning Signs

Updated: Wednesday, March 5 2014, 05:18 PM EST

More than 25 million Americans have diabetes but many are unaware of the dangers it can lead to, including heart disease and stroke.

Glenda Ford is an administrative assistant to the Chief of Pediatrics at Sinai. One day last summer, which started out as any other, turned into a life-changing event.

"It was a typical normal day," Ford said. "I had a dentist appointment and I was walking to the dentist appointment and realizing my left leg was just deciding it wasn't going to walk with me."

By the time she'd left the dentist Ford knew something was very wrong. She could barely walk or go up and down the steps. She scheduled a doctor's appointment for the next day and by then her concerns had turned into full blown fear.

"I can't explain the feeling," Ford said. "It just felt like I was leaving here, it really did, it felt like was just gonna die, it was a horrible feeling."

She underwent several tests and before long doctors confirmed her worst fears.

"I think inside I knew it was a stroke, but it did hurt and it was traumatic, when they confirmed it was a stroke, it was very traumatic," Ford recalled.

The stroke, it turned out, was caused by Type 2 Diabetes.

Doctor Asha Thomas is the Director of Endocrinology Sinai Hospital. She says high blood sugar causes the buildup of plaque in blood vessels, putting diabetics at risk for heart disease and stroke.

"In a given moment, if someone's blood sugar is a little bit elevated, that's probably not that harmful, but in the long term, what we're worried about are those long term vessel damages that can happen in the brain in the form of a stroke, in the heart in the form of a heart attack," Thomas said.

The symptoms can be subtle: Slurred speech and trouble concentrating to name a few, but getting help right away is crucial.

"You may miss a window of time where potentially you could give medical therapy some of the consequences of the stroke," Thomas said. "Not all stokes can be treated in that way, but if you can, you're missing time."

In Glenda's case the stroke had already done serious damage. She spent eight weeks in physical therapy re-learning how to use the left side of her body. Since then, she's made some changes to help control her diabetes, like spending her lunch break walking the hallways.

Diabetes and Risk of Stroke, an Inside Look at the Dangers and Warning Signs

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