Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is common in patients with diabetes. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes, reports the American Heart Association. The ADA considers diabetes to be one of the seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

New research published in Diabetologia analyzed more than 60 studies associated with diabetes and found that there was a gender gap for the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that women with diabetes had a higher risk than men. “Women with diabetes have more than a 40 percent greater risk of incident CHD (coronary heart disease) compared with men with diabetes,” the study states.

Adjusting for other risk factors such as age, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and cholesterol levels, women with diabetes were at higher risk for both fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events.

Why are diabetics at an increased risk?

These factors are common in people with diabetes:

High blood pressure paired with insulin resistance can double the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Obesity causes health risk factors including high blood pressure.

Abnormal cholesterol levels and high triglycerides are an indicator of premature coronary heart disease.

Sedentary lifestyles that lack physical activity are risks factor for cardiovascular disease.

It’s unknown why women are at higher risk, but researchers hypothesize that it could be the result of more severe deterioration in health before they are diagnosed with diabetes. Because women typically gain more weight than men before the onset of diabetes this could also increase their risk, though more research is needed to confirm these theories.

It’s never too late to gain control over your diabetes and overall health. You can start preventing heart disease today with a few simple steps.

What you can do to lower your risk:

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise
  • Manage your blood sugar levels
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Control your weight
  • Limit stress levels and try to find time for something you enjoy doing each day
  • Visit your doctor regularly and know your risk level

To learn more about diabetes and heart disease:

Diabetes and Heart Disease: What's the Risk?
Protein Blocker Could Stop Heart Disease in Diabetics
Low Blood Sugars Can Increase Heart Risk for Diabetics