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Could Type 1 Diabetes Undermine Women’s Heart Health?

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may5-1Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce all the insulin needed to convert blood glucose into energy. It was once believed to only occur in childhood, though it’s now known that the disorder strikes adults, too. Around 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes each year — half of them children, and the other half adults. Each year since 1989, worldwide incidence of Type 1 diabetes has risen by three percent. There’s more bad news. According to research recently published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, women with Type 1 diabetes are twice as likely as men with the condition to die from cardiovascular disease. They’re also at an increased risk of death from stroke, kidney disease, and death from any other cause, except cancer. Researchers believe that poor blood sugar management may be to blame for the increased rates of death among women who suffer from Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes and Heart Disease in Women For the study, researchers from The University of Queensland’s School of Public Health performed a meta-analysis of 26 studies involving 214,114 people with Type 1 diabetes. The researchers wanted to investigate gender differences in mortality related to Type 1 diabetes between 1966 and 2014. In the end, the researchers found that women with Type 1 diabetes were twice as likely as men with the same condition to die from cardiovascular disease. They were 37 percent more likely to suffer a stroke and 44 percent more likely to die from kidney disease than men with Type 1 diabetes. When the researchers looked at gender differences in all causes of death except cancer, they discovered that women with Type 1 diabetes are 37 percent more likely than men with the disease to die from any cause. The study authors believe that women with Type 1 diabetes don’t control their blood sugar as well as men with condition, creating the discrepancy in mortality rates between the sexes. The researchers say that, while it was already known that Type 1 diabetes raises the risk of death and shortens life expectancy, this is the first study to highlight gender differences in mortality from complications of the disease. Type 1 diabetes causes heart disease by speeding up the progression of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. It can also raise blood pressure, damaging the kidneys and contributing to heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Nerve damage caused by Type 1 diabetes can also contribute to heart problems, and the condition can also cause damage to the heart muscle itself known as diabetic cardiomyopathy. You can prevent the complications of Type 1 diabetes by keeping blood glucose under control and taking preventative measures against heart disease, including using medications like Lipitor to prevent cardiovascular disease or Plavix to prevent stroke. Women and Heart Disease may5-2The results of this study are even more important considering that many women don’t understand their true heart disease risk. While one in three American women die from stroke or heart disease, only one in five women believe that heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women. Many women still believe their biggest health threat is breast cancer, which kills just one in 31 women. That’s because heart disease and heart attacks have traditionally been thought of as male afflictions. In fact, heart disease kills more women each year than it does men — regardless of whether the women in question also suffer from Type 1 diabetes. Women may experience very different heart attack symptoms than men, including many symptoms that you wouldn’t immediately associate with a heart attack, like neck and jaw pain, shoulder pain, abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and dizziness. Women are also more likely to experience heart attacks as a result of depression or stress. For example, women are more prone than men to a condition known as broken heart syndrome, which occurs when the heart is overwhelmed by a surge of stress hormones brought on by an extremely emotional situation, like a loved one’s death. Unlike heart disease, however, broken heart syndrome causes a temporary malfunctioning of an otherwise healthy heart. With treatment, its symptoms can be reversed in about a week. Women of all ages should be concerned about heart disease risk, especially women with Type 1 diabetes. Know the common signs of a heart attack in women. If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar level. Eat a heart-healthy diet and exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day — experts believe that part of the reason heart disease kills more women is because women are typically less active than men. Maintain a healthy weight. If you smoke, quit. According to a massive meta-analysis of 26 studies, women with Type 1 diabetes are twice as likely as men with the same condition to die of heart disease. Other dangers include stroke and kidney disease — in fact, women with Type 1 diabetes are more likely than men with the disease to die of any cause but cancer. If you’re a woman with Type 1 diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control and take care of your heart. With a little diligence, you can still beat the odds.

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