Type 2 diabetes doubles women’s heart disease risk compared to men
For the 29 million Americans living with diabetes, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, accounting for more than 50 percent of deaths, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
A new scientific statement from the AHA said that women with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease as their male counterparts. Black and Hispanic women may be at even greater risk than white women because they’re more likely to be diabetic.
“Heart disease is already the leading cause of death for women in the United States, though awareness lags on the issue,” said Dr. David Looyenga, cardiologist with the Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “With diabetes rates steadily growing, it’s more important than ever to understand its disparate impact on both men and women’s cardiovascular health.”
The statement noted that non-diabetic women are less likely to suffer cardiovascular events than men, and more research is needed to determine exactly how and why diabetes changes their risk. For now, researchers said it’s likely a combination of genetic and hormonal differences between the sexes, as well as differences in the diagnosis and treatment of their conditions.
Additionally, women with type 2 diabetes are less likely than men to have their blood sugars and blood pressure under control, and are less likely to be on medications or undergo procedures to treat heart disease. They are also more likely to have heart attacks at an earlier age, and more likely to die from them.
Women with type 2 diabetes may lower their risk of cardiovascular disease through improved diet and increased physical activity, but research shows that they made need to exercise more frequently and intensely than men to see the same results.
“Prevention is key,” said Dr. Looyenga. “A good diet and regular exercise can help prevent diabetes, which in turn, can lower a woman’s risk of developing heart disease. Anyone at increased risk for either condition should consult with their physician in order to create or modify a nutrition plan and fitness program that is right for them.”
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