Diabetes Raises Heart Risks in Women

Type 2 diabetes in young women increased their likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Diabetes patients face a high risk of heart disease and stroke. Even young women with the condition are susceptible, but controlling the risk factors can help.

Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have cardiovascular disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes, but the American Heart Association considers diabetes to be one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease.

While patients can take actions to lower risk, a new report raises concerns for premenopausal women with type 2 diabetes, finding that they too were more likely to develop cardiovascular problems than those who were diabetes-free.

"Plan regular screenings for heart disease if you have diabetes."

Nestor Garcia, MD, investigator from Blossom DMO in Cordoba, Argentina and CONICET, an Argentine government agency in Buenos Aires, Argentina, led this study of 1,256 Argentine premenopausal and menopausal women with and without type 2 diabetes.

Ranging in age from 19 to 84 years, participants were imaged with ultrasound to measure plaque in their carotid arteries.

The carotid arteries are two large blood vessels in the neck that supply the brain with blood. Plaque is composed of cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances found in the blood. Plaque can build up in the arteries and block blood flow, causing a condition called atherosclerosis.

Regardless of menopausal status, the 293 women with type 2 diabetes were more likely to have plaque buildup compared with the 963 women who didn’t have diabetes.

The authors highlighted that type 2 diabetes independently raises the risk of heart disease in premenopausal women and those in the first years of menopause.

“These data indicate that [type 2 diabetes] women in premenopausal or first years of menopausal age (40-50 years) are at intermediate or high risk to develop a cardiovascular event while non-diabetic women reach this...risk after age 50,” wrote the authors.

The scientists had theorized that heart disease in women with type 2 diabetes may not be being detected early enough to decrease the rate of cardiovascular events.

“Perhaps we overestimate their protection during the premenopausal and early postmenopausal years,” they wrote.

Dr. Garcia added in a press release, “To reduce the risk of heart attacks, we recommend screening women with type 2 diabetes at younger ages, even if they don’t have other known risks for heart disease.”

Patients with diabetes can take steps that can help prevent or delay getting heart and blood vessel disease. The American Heart Association suggests taking measures to lower high blood pressure, control cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, manage blood sugar levels and quit smoking.

This study was presented at the American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions 2013. Funding for this study was provided by Blossom DMO and CONICET.

Review Date: 
September 13, 2013
Last Updated:
September 13, 2013