Women With Diabetes: Heart Risks Undertreated

Differences in Treatment for Men and Women May Raise Women's Risk of Heart Disease

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March 18, 2005 -- Heart disease risk factors in women with diabetes tend to be treated less aggressively than in men, according to a new study.

Researchers say those disparities in care may explain why the rate of heart-related deaths among women with diabetes has risen during the last 30 years, despite improvements among men with diabetes and the population in general.

The study showed that women with diabetes were less likely than men with diabetes to be treated with aspirin and cholesterol-lowering drugs, and modifiable risk factors such as blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels were less likely to be within recommended levels

Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of heart disease among both men and women, but this study shows that other modifiable risk factors for heart disease may not be treated adequately in women with diabetes.

Women's Heart Risks Undertreated

In the study, researchers compared data on 3,849 men and women treated for diabetes at five major academic centers in the U.S. from 2000 to 2003. The results appear in the March issue of Diabetes Care.

The results showed that women with diabetes and heart disease were 37% less likely to have blood sugar levels within the recommended levels and those without heart disease were 16% less likely to have healthy blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels beyond the recommended levels increase the risk of diabetes-related complications and heart disease.

Other findings include:

  • Women with diabetes without heart disease were 18% less likely to be prescribed a cholesterol-lowering drug.
  • Women with diabetes were about a third less likely to be prescribed aspirin.
  • When treated for high cholesterol, women with diabetes and heart disease were 20% less likely to have LDL "bad" cholesterol levels within the recommended limit.
  • When treated for high blood pressure, women with diabetes and heart disease were 25% less likely to have blood pressure levels within the recommended levels.

Researchers say these differences in treatment may explain the excessive burden of heart disease in women with diabetes.

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SOURCE: Wexler, D. Diabetes Care, March 2005; vol 28: pp 514-520.
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