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Women with Diabetes Face Greater Risk of Heart Failure Than Men

Cardiovascular disease is associated with men more so than women, but when you add diabetes to the mix, the risk of heart failure becomes greater for women, according to new research.

What Did the Study Find?

A global study of 12 million people published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, found type 1 diabetes is associated with a 47 percent greater, excess risk of heart failure in women compared to men. Similarly, type 2 diabetes has a 9 percent greater, excess risk of heart failure for women than men.

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“It is already known that diabetes puts you at greater risk of developing heart failure but what our study shows for the first time is that women are at far greater risk — for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” said Toshiaki Ohkuma, PhD, research fellow at The George Institute for Global Health, in a statement.

As the basis for this research, the authors conducted a systematic search in PubMed for population-based cohort studies published between January 1966 and November 2018. Notable findings include:

  • Women with type 1 diabetes had a more than 5-fold increased risk of heart failure compared to women without diabetes.
  • Men with type 1 diabetes had a 3.5-fold increased risk of heart failure compared to men without.
  • The corresponding increases in risks for heart failure linked to type 2 diabetes were 95 percent in women and 74 percent in men.
  • Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are stronger risk factors for heart failure in women than in men.

What Should Clinicians Know About the Study?

One study author, Sanne Peters, PhD, research fellow at The George, offered a few possible reasons for this gender-based discrepancy.

To start, women are under-treated for diabetes and don’t take the same level of medications as men, she tells Florence Health. Research also shows that women suffer from prediabetes for an average of two years more than men, and this longer duration may be linked to a higher risk of heart failure.

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Dr. Peters adds: “The excess risk of heart failure recorded in women compared with men with type 1 diabetes might be due to women having an overall greater cumulative lifetime exposure to hyperglycemia because of poorer glycemic control compared with men. Previous studies of individuals with type 1 diabetes have shown notable sex differences in the control of blood glucose and HbA1c levels. Young girls and women are more likely to be in persistent poor glycemic control than young boys and men.”

 Some 415 million adults worldwide have diabetes, around 199 million of whom are women, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women, claiming 2.1 female lives annually; number one is heart disease. By the year 2040, around 313 million women are expected to suffer from diabetes, the IDF reports.

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