Younger Women Heart Disease Diabetes
November 1, 2013

Diabetes Increases Heart Disease Risk For Younger Women

Rebekah Eliason for – Your Universe Online

New research from John Hopkins University has found that young or middle-aged women with type 2 diabetes carry much greater risk for coronary artery disease than was previously understood.

As a general rule, women under the age of 60 are much less likely to have coronary artery disease than men of the same age. Unfortunately, for women of the same age who have type 2 diabetes, their risk of coronary artery disease quadruples, giving these women approximately the same odds of developing this type of heart disease.

Rita Rastogi Kalyani, M.D., M.H.S., endocrinologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of the study 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.”

Surprisingly, the study showed that diabetes in men caused no more significant occurrence of heart disease than those without it. Kalyani says this was the first study of its kind to focus exclusively on gender differences regarding coronary artery disease among young and middle-aged adults with diabetes.

For the study, the research team investigated data from the three major studies: the GeneSTAR Research Program, the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III. This allowed them to analyze over 10,000 participants who had never had a history of heart disease. Each different study showed similar results regarding gender and heart disease risk.

“Our study adds to growing evidence that gender differences exist in the risk of coronary artery disease brought on by diabetes,” said Kalyani.

Researchers were interested to find that in both men and women conventional cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking were unrelated to the results in this study.

Kalyani and her research team are still exploring possible explanations for their discovery. Potentially there could be distinct genetic and hormonal factors associated with the development of heart disease that differ according to gender. Kalyani indicated that more exploration of the difference between gender adherence to heart-healthy lifestyle behaviors, compliance and treatment of cardiovascular treatments may also help explain the results. Another factor that researchers would like to clarify is the relationship of diabetes duration and glucose control to the risk of heart disease.