In this study, we show that all different blood pressure variables, i.e., SBP, DBP, PP, and MAP, independently increased the risk of stroke in individuals with type 1 diabetes. The same except for DBP was seen for ischemic stroke, while SBP, DBP and MAP independently increased the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. The effect of blood pressure variables on the risk of stroke and its subtypes proved to be linear for SBP, MAP, and PP. Notably, no J-shaped association was observed for any blood pressure variable or stroke subtype, neither was sodium or potassium excretion associated with an increased risk of stroke in this study.
Impact of different blood pressure variables on the risk of stroke
As in the general population [19, 20], SBP seems to be a very strong risk factor for stroke also in type 1 diabetes. SBP remained significant as a risk factor for total stroke and ischemic stroke when compared with the other variables in the Cox regression models. PP is the pulsatile variable of blood pressure and, as such, a marker for large artery stiffness. PP has been shown to increase the risk of stroke in the general population, and the association seems to be linear . The association of DBP and stroke is, however, less clear since this blood pressure variable does not increase with age, instead, it decreases , leading to a weaker association with stroke. This also explains the non-linear association with DBP and stroke in the restrictive cubic spline regression models. Rawshani et al.  also showed that the association with DBP and stroke is rather weak. MAP, on the other hand, is considered to be the perfusion pressure in organs in the body and is composed of both SBP and DBP . The significant association reflects this for any stroke as well as for both subtypes in the present study. We are not aware of any previous studies on MAP and stroke in type 1 diabetes.
Blood pressure levels and the risk of stroke
In individuals with type 2 diabetes, the risk of stroke increases after blood pressure exceeds 130/80 mmHg . In our study, the risk of stroke starts to increase at similar DBP levels, while for SBP, linear increase is observed even earlier. In a recent study by Rawshani et al. , similar results were seen for SBP, although the risk started to increase for stroke at a slightly higher level compared to our study. The treatment recommendation for blood pressure levels in diabetes is, despite these facts, higher; according to the American Diabetes Association , medical treatment of high blood pressure in diabetes should be initiated at blood pressure levels of > 140/90 mmHg, and the treatment goal is a blood pressure of < 140/90 mmHg. However, a recently published guideline by the American Heart Association suggested that blood pressure levels in type 1 diabetes should be lower, recommending initiation of treatment already at blood pressure levels of > 130/80 mmHg, and that the blood pressure target should be < 130/80 mmHg in individuals with diabetes . The results in our study support the new recommendations for blood pressure treatment targets in type 1 diabetes. Furthermore, despite the high prevalence of antihypertensive medication in the participants with stroke blood pressure levels were suboptimal, indicating that a more aggressive approach in treating blood pressure in these individuals should be considered.
Association of blood pressure variables and stroke
To our surprise, there were no indications of a J-shaped phenomenon in our study for any of the studied blood pressure variables. The risk of stroke increased linearly for all subtypes for SBP, MAP, and PP, while the risk increment was non-linear for DBP. For SBP, this is in line with the study by Rawshani et al. , where the association with stroke was also linear. According to Zhao et al. , the J-shaped association was found mainly in individuals 30–59 years of age, and this association weakened in individuals older than 60 years. Even though the participants in our study were younger than 60 years, mean age around 50 years, their blood vessels could resemble those of non-diabetic individuals of older age due to the long diabetes duration and, thus, alternating blood glucose levels. In accordance with this, we have earlier shown that the pulse pressure in individuals with type 1 diabetes increases 15 to 20 years earlier than in non-diabetic individuals, suggesting early vascular aging in diabetes . This can be explained by the fact that hyperglycemia causes endothelial dysfunction, leading to diabetic angiopathy and arterial stiffness, and all of these leading to hypertension [26,27,28]. The same changes take place in normoglycemic persons during aging [29, 30]. On the other hand, apart from hypertension, the risk factors identified for stroke in type 1 diabetes are different compared to the general population [8, 31, 32]. The etiology of stroke is also different. In type 1 diabetes, the majority of strokes are caused by small-vessel disease or stroke of unclear etiology, while cardioembolism is less frequent in young individuals with type 1 diabetes compared with people without diabetes . Carotid stenosis, a marker of large-artery atherosclerosis, is also less common, especially compared to individuals with type 2 diabetes . Subclinical atherosclerosis is, however, known to associate with type 1 diabetes , so it might be that some of the strokes classified as unclear etiology could be due to atherosclerosis. In the present study we were unable to assess the etiology of strokes due to variation in and/or lack of etiological assessment performed at the different hospitals during the different time periods.
Salt intake and stroke
High salt intake, measured as 24-h urinary sodium excretion, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, mainly stroke [9, 35]. The same can be seen in individuals with chronic kidney disease, for which the risk of stroke increases linearly when urinary sodium excretion increases . A majority of our participants, 61%, with stroke had impaired kidney function, defined as diabetic nephropathy. Yet, we did not find any associations with urinary sodium and potassium excretion and stroke. One possibility for this result could be the low number of individuals tested; we only had information on urinary sodium and potassium excretion available for 115 participants with stroke. Many of these individuals also had micro- or macroalbuminuria, which in some part affect the urinary excretion. On the other hand, no trends towards any associations were seen in the analyses.
One of the weaknesses of this study was that we only had an office blood pressure measurement from a single time point available, and this could have been measured years before the incident stroke. Likewise, 24-h Na and 24-h K were also measured from a single urine collection. Ambulatory 24-h blood pressure or timed blood pressure measurements during a more extended time would be the best method to determine the impact of blood pressure on the risk of stroke. Unfortunately, in this large study population consisting of over 4000 participants, this was not feasible. Moreover, already with this single office blood pressure, we were able to show an increased risk of stroke in these participants, indicating that this single blood pressure measurement might be a sensitive enough tool to evaluate the risk of stroke years before an event.
Another limitation of this study is the number of stroke cases, particularly that of hemorrhagic strokes. This could affect the impact of sodium and potassium on the risk of stroke, as well as the J-shaped vs linear association between blood pressure levels and stroke risk. On the other hand, in the studies by Cederholm et al. [37, 38], no J-shaped relationships between low SBP and increased stroke risk was found even though the number of individuals was threefold larger in their second study, 13,000 vs 35,000 participants. Further studies on the potential J-shaped association between blood pressure and stroke in individuals with type 1 diabetes are required before any conclusions can be made.
The number of individuals studied is also one of the strengths of this study. Stroke is, fortunately, still a relatively rare complication in this age group. To this date, this is the largest study population of individuals with type 1 diabetes and stroke ascertained from medical files, which allowed us to also perform studies on the subgroups of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. Another strength in our study is the well-characterized population. All of the included strokes were identified from different sources, the information on strokes and their complications were verified from medical records, and all the included strokes were confirmed and classified with the same methods by expert stroke neurologists.