Type 1 women face greater health risks

Women with type 1 diabetes are more likely to suffer serious health problems than men, according to a study undertaken by the University of Queensland’s School of Public Health.

The research analysed 26 diabetes studies dating back to 1965, covering more than 200,000 people. The researchers found that women with type 1 diabetes had a 40% increased risk of death from any cause and more than twice the risk of dying from heart disease compared to men with type 1 diabetes.

Study leader Professor Rachel Huxley said the marked difference between the genders could change how women with type 1 diabetes were treated and managed.

“It is speculated that women with type 1 diabetes tend to have greater difficulties with insulin management and glycaemic control than men – factors that could contribute to their increased risk of heart disease,” Professor Huxley said. “However, more research is needed to determine why the disease poses a greater risk to women than men.”

Professor Huxley said the study also found that women with type 1 diabetes were at greater risk of strokes and 44% more likely to die from kidney disease than men. Interestingly, however, type 1 diabetes was not linked to an increased risk of death from cancers in either gender.

Despite the evidence discovering a higher risk of comorbidities for women, Sarah Hedgecock, writing on Forbes.com, says the actual figures for deaths from diabetes is higher in men than women – but that can be partly explained by the fact more men have type 1 diabetes than women.

Sue Leahy, Credentialed Diabetes Educator at Diabetes NSW & ACT, cautioned people not to be alarmed.

“The study is certainly interesting and raises some valid questions about women’s health, however it is important to note that the study may not take into account other confounding factors.

“It also covers a wide range of studies across a long period of time, that would have had different parameters and varying controls in place,” she added.

“Things such as the increased risk of death from heart disease could simply be down to the fact that cardiovascular disease is the single biggest killer of Australian women in the general population anyway,” she said.

“What the paper really needs to show is how the higher mortality figures were explained – did they have higher BGLs for example?

“It is important that both men and women are screened regularly for diabetes related complications as this will allow any problems to be identified early and appropriate treatment initiated. Working closely with a diabetes healthcare team to achieve the best possible blood glucose control can help reduce the risks of complications such as cardiovascular disease and stroke in the long-term.”

The study was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

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