Two studies found that women with diabetes have greater risk of cardiovascular events in middle age than men.
One of the studies, conducted in Italy, analyzed the data of more than three million people over the age of 16.
Using this data, the scientists found that women with diabetes had a higher risk for hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction (MI), a blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle, than men did.
The risk grew higher with age, according to the research. Women had the highest risk for MI between ages 45 and 54. Also, from 55 to 64, women had the greatest risk of hospitalization for ischemic stroke and congestive heart failure. Ischemic stroke is caused by an obstruction within a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain, and congestive heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood sufficiently.
“With respect to MI, diabetic women are more disadvantaged, compared to diabetic men, with a gender-driven ‘risk window’ which mostly opens in the perimenopausal age,” wrote the study’s authors. “All this prompts attention to a timely, gender oriented prevention of cardiovascular events in people with diabetes.”
The other study, conducted in China, examined the risk of acute coronary syndrome, a condition caused by a sudden reduction or blockage of blood flow to the heart, in men and women with diabetes. The researchers analyzed the data from several studies of nearly 11 million people and found that the risk of acute coronary syndrome was higher in women with diabetes.
These findings combined may change the way physicians look at women with diabetes and assess their cardiovascular risks. “It’s possible that they are undertreated,” Dr. Giuseppe Seghieri, MD, of the Italian study, told MedPage Today. The disproportionate number could also be because women seek cardiovascular treatment later in life than men.
The Chinese researchers suggest that “we should avoid sexual prejudice in cardiovascular disease, take all necessary steps to diagnose it early, and control risk factors comprehensively to guarantee the most suitable treatments and best possible outcomes in female patients.”
If you’re a woman with diabetes, consider making an appointment with your primary healthcare provider to discuss tests and lifestyle behaviors that can lead to optimal heart health.