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Women with Diabetes at Greater Risk for Heart Disease than Men

CardioSmart News

Women with diabetes require special treatment to reduce risk for heart disease, according to the latest evidence reviewed in a recent statement from the American Heart Association.

Published in the journal Circulation, this study addressed the unique challenges faced by women with diabetes. Diabetes currently affects more than 29 million Americans, or 9.3% of the U.S. population. Although diabetes is just as common in men and women, research suggests that women with diabetes have greater risk for heart disease than men.

To address this issue, experts from the American Heart Association reviewed the latest evidence to provide recommendations for addressing cardiovascular risk in women with diabetes.

Overall, women with diabetes face significantly greater cardiovascular risk than their male counterparts. Women with diabetes are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease compared to men, based on recent findings. Women with diabetes are also at greater risk for heart attack, and heart attacks tend to be more deadly in women with diabetes. Unfortunately, little is known about why women with diabetes have such high cardiovascular risk.

Although authors encourage future research on the issue, they also offer suggestions for helping women reduce cardiovascular risk. Initial data suggests that lifestyle changes like increasing physical activity and improving diet are more effective in women with prediabetes than men. Therefore, for women at risk for developing diabetes, simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in preventing the full-blown disease.

Lifestyle changes are also extremely important for women already living with diabetes, as authors explain. Along with standard diabetes treatment, improving physical activity levels and diet help offset increased risk for heart disease. However, women need more frequent and more vigorous exercise to get the same cardiovascular risk reductions as men. Current guidelines recommend that adults with diabetes get at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week to improve health. However, results from the Nurses’ Health Study suggest that women with type 2 diabetes need at least two hours a week of physical activity to significantly reduce risk for heart events.

Based on this recent statement, it’s clear that women with diabetes face significant challenges when it comes to heart health. Authors hope their paper brings attention to the issue. Not only is additional research needed, but it’s important that women with diabetes take added steps to improve their cardiovascular health. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease and proper treatment can help significantly improve both outcomes and quality of life.

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