Research shows that women and African-Americans face a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes than men and white people, respectively.

While the gender gap may be narrowing, distinctions by race may be increasing, according to the American Heart Association.

Researchers studied population attributable risk (PAR) changes - which consider how common a risk factor is and by how much that factor raises the chance of future disease - for the five main modifiable cardiovascular risk factors: high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.

As you might know, there is a strong connection between heart problems and diabetes. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of disability among people with Type 2 diabetes, according to the AHA. Additionally, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes.

The researchers examined data from more than 13,500 people, 56 percent of whom were women and 26 percent black. They assessed risk factors over a 10-year period.

"We've been targeting traditional risk factors in public health campaigns for many years," said Susan Cheng, M.D., M.P.H., study lead author and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass. "We wanted to take a look at how well we've been doing over time at keeping these risk factors from causing heart and vascular disease - both by preventing the risks from occurring and by minimizing their effects when they do occur."

The results showed that the combined PAR for the five major risk factors decreased in whites while staying the same in blacks. Also, the contribution of diabetes to cardiovascular disease is higher in women than men and more than twice as high in blacks than whites. Researchers also stressed that obesity is a crucial risk factor for diabetes.

All of these things can make living with the blood sugar disease more challenging. One of the takeaways of the study, authors said, is the need for targeted as well as population-based approaches to reduce risks, despite progressive improvements in public health efforts to lower the overall burden of risk for heart disease and diabetes.

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