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Research: Women With Diabetes More Likely To Develop Heart Disease

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Forget what you think you know about heart disease. There's new information that's shaking things up a bit.

People with diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease.

But is the risk greater for men or women?

Australian researchers looked at studies over a 50-year span involving 850,000 people.

Women had a 50 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease compared to men. And women with diabetes were three times more likely to develop heart disease compared to women without it.

Men were only twice as likely.

"It tends to happen a little later in life for women, maybe five or 10 years later than in men," said Dr. Jennifer Holst, an endocrinologist at West Penn Hospital.

To complicate matters, women and diabetics don't always have typical symptoms, maybe only trouble breathing.

"It may not be the classic elephant sitting on my chest feeling. It could be more subtle," said Dr. Holst. "And some people with diabetes don't feel heart discomfort at all."

The study can't show it is the diabetes that causes the heart disease, but the link is well known.

"Men should not worry, now that women are more at risk than men. I think men and women should be conscious of making choices that would reduce risk of heart disease, especially in people who have diabetes," says Dr. Holst.

For diabetics, keeping blood sugar, or glucose, in the normal range can help the eyes, kidneys and nerves, but not necessarily the heart.

But keeping cholesterol and blood pressure normal, regular exercise, cutting out tobacco, and in some cases, a daily aspirin, will reduce the risk.

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