Type 2 diabetes in women increases heart attack and stroke risk, but intense activity may help lower the risk. Women, compared to men, have double the risk of having a heart attack or stroke if they have type 2 diabetes. The findings suggest that additional intense activity could help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Men and women generally have similar rates of type 2 diabetes and those rates continue to climb with each passing year.
Researcher Judith G. Regensteiner said, “Cardiovascular disease may be more deadly for women with type 2 diabetes than it is for men. While we don’t fully understand how the inherent hormonal differences between men and women affect risk, we do know that some risk factors for heart disease and stroke affect women differently than men and there are disparities in how these risk factors are treated.”
Findings of the study revealed that women with type 2 diabetes experience heart attacks earlier than men, have a greater risk of death after a heart attack, are less likely to undergo procedures to unclog arteries or coronary bypass, are less likely to be on cholesterol-lowering medications or blood pressure-lowering medications, are less likely to have their blood sugar and blood pressure under control, and are most likely to develop type 2 diabetes based on gender differences – for example, as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Research suggests that women with type 2 diabetes would benefits from more vigorous activity as a means of protecting their heart and lowering their risk of heart attack and stroke. Along with improved diet, women should exercise more intensely and more frequently than men in order to protect their health.
Regensteiner added, “To improve health equity in women and men with diabetes, we need to understand and improve both the biological reasons for the disparities and also control cardiovascular risk factors equally in both women and men. This statement is a call for action to do the compelling research that is so important for all people with diabetes.”
An alternative study by researchers at Johns Hopkins found that young and middle-aged women – under 60 – are at a higher risk of coronary artery disease. Typically, women under the age of 60 are at a reduced risk of coronary artery disease compared to men of the same age, but when a woman has diabetes her risk increases four times, making it similar to that of men.
Rita Rastogi, lead author, said, “Our findings suggest that we need to work harder to prevent heart disease in women under 60 who have diabetes. This study tells us that women of any age who have diabetes are at a high risk for coronary artery disease.”
Although diabetes in women was found to increase their risk of coronary artery disease, the same results were not found in men as their risk of coronary artery disease did not increase.
The researchers looked at over 10,000 participants from three studies: the GeneSTAR Research Program, the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III. None of the participants had a history of heart disease and all three studies revealed gender differences in coronary artery disease and diabetes status.
The researchers outline numerous explanations for the differences, citing genetic and hormonal factors on the heart, differences in adherence to healthy lifestyle options, and differences in compliance with cardiovascular treatments. Additional research is required to confirm this theory.