Anyone living with diabetes is at an increased risk of heart disease, whether that be suffering a heart attack or stroke. However, new research finds that women who have diabetes are 40 percent more likely to have a heart attack than men who have diabetes. “Two studies presented at the European Association of the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting confirm what we have suspected clinically for some time,” shares Oklahoma Heart Institute endocrinologist Dr. Cristin Bruns. “What is even more astounding is that the increased risk appears to start as young as age 45.”
Dr. Bruns says, although it was already known that diabetes negated heart disease protection in women, researchers are still unclear as to why. Add to an increased risk, women with diabetes may be unaware they are even having a heart attack. “Women with diabetes may not present with the typical heart symptoms,” she adds. “They may have shortness of breath, fatigue easily or even nausea rather than classic chest pains. This may result in a delay in accurate diagnosis.”
Understanding prevention steps along with an early and correct diagnosis are key. “All necessary steps should be taken to control cardiovascular risk factors and to diagnose heart disease in a timely fashion in women with diabetes,” Dr. Bruns says. “Women with diabetes should take steps early on to control their blood pressure and cholesterol, choose healthier foods, engage in regular physical activity and avoid smoking.” Dr. Bruns also encourages women to be their own advocates in the doctor’s office. “Women with diabetes who have any of the atypical symptoms mentioned above should be sure to ask their provider, ‘Could it be my heart?’”
To learn more about Oklahoma Heart Institute’s Endocrinology Division, click here.