Prediabetes in patients with stroke or transient ischemic attack: prevalence, risk and clinical management

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2014;37(6):393-400. doi: 10.1159/000360810. Epub 2014 Jun 28.


Background: The prevalence of diabetes is emerging worldwide and is an important modifiable risk factor for stroke. People with prediabetes, an intermediate metabolic state between normal glucose metabolism and diabetes, have a tenfold increased risk of developing diabetes compared to those with a normal glucose metabolism. Prediabetes is comprised of impaired fasting glucose and/or impaired glucose tolerance and/or disturbed glycosylated hemoglobin levels. Prediabetes is highly prevalent in nondiabetic patients with transient ischemic attack (TIA) or ischemic stroke and nearly doubles their risk of stroke. This offers new options for secondary stroke prevention.

Summary: Several detection methods exist for identifying (pre)diabetes, including fasting plasma glucose, 2-hour postload glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin levels. The concordance between these tests is not 100%, and they seem to be complementary. Screening for (pre)diabetes after stroke with fasting plasma glucose levels alone is insufficient, and 2-hour postload glucose and/or glycosylated hemoglobin levels should be determined as well. The prevalence of prediabetes in previously nondiabetic patients with a recent TIA or stroke ranges from 23 to 53%. This high prevalence in the acute phase after stroke can be transient or persistent, representing undiagnosed abnormal glucose metabolism. Impaired fasting glucose and impaired glucose tolerance have different pathophysiological mechanisms, including hepatic insulin resistance and muscle insulin resistance, respectively. Prediabetes seems to be a modest predictor for stroke, but doubles the risk for recurrent stroke. The relation between prediabetes after stroke and functional outcome is still unknown. However, it is most likely that prediabetes is a risk factor for a poor clinical outcome after stroke. There is a growing recognition that patients with prediabetes should be treated more aggressively. Both lifestyle and pharmacological interventions are possible treatment strategies. They are at least equally effective in preventing progression to diabetes. Lifestyle changes are difficult to maintain over a long period. The evidence of pharmacological interventions on stroke or other cardiovascular diseases is limited though and is still subject of several clinical trials.

Conclusions: As the prevalence of prediabetes is growing rapidly, prediabetes might become one of the most important modifiable therapeutic targets in both primary and secondary prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / diagnosis
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / epidemiology*
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / therapy
  • Prediabetic State / epidemiology*
  • Prediabetic State / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • Stroke / therapy