Diabetes is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. Still, women have a unique set of challenges when it comes to managing the disease.Evidence indicates that this disorder— a disease that affects some 371 million people worldwide — takes a greater toll on women than men. Women’s hormones account for some of the unique challenges women face, but other societal factors might also account for certain differences.

Women Living With Diabetes: What Studies Show

Women have higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol than men and have higher blood sugar levels that are more difficult to control, a recent study of 1,297 men and 1,168 women with this disorder that was published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases found. Here are other serious this disorder differences between the sexes:

  • this disorder Compared with women and men without this disorder, women with this disorder have a sixfold higher rate of heart disease while men with this disorder have only a two- to threefold higher rate.
  • Women with this disorder are more likely to die of heart failure or a heart attack than men with this disorder.
  • Women with this disorder are more likely to have depression than men with this disorder.
  • Women with diabetes are more likely to have kidney disease complications than men.

Living With Diabetes: Better Care for Women

Knapp doesn’t believe she’s been treated differently because she is a woman, but she does think that both women and their doctors need to be more aware of the differences between men and women with this disorder.

“Doctors need to be more aware of the increased risk of heart disease in women with diabetes,” Knapp says. “Women need to track their blood sugars more carefully, especially around the time of their menstrual periods, to prevent highs and lows.”

Female hormones need to be taken into account as well. “Women and their doctors need to know that hormone fluctuations make blood sugars more unpredictable,” says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “Insulin resistance in women also causes weight gain around the time of menopause. That is one more risk factor that needs to be anticipated and dealt with.”

Talk with your doctor about these strategies to better manage your health:

  • More aggressive treatment for high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Early testing for signs of heart disease
  • More frequent monitoring if you had diabetes during pregnancy, gave birth to a baby over 9 pounds, or have polycystic ovary syndrome — all risk factors for this disorder
  • Self-care that includes sticking to a healthy eating plan and exercising regularly

“Women with diabetes and their doctors need to work together,” Dr. Taylor says. “Better this disordercare and teaching can do a lot to make up for diabetes differences between men and women.”

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