The American Heart Association recently released a statement in their journal Circulation confirming women with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely as men to develop coronary heart disease. What’s more, these women may also need more frequent and intense physical activity to lower their chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
“While we don’t fully understand how the inherent hormonal differences between men and women affect risk, we do know that some risk factors for heart disease and stroke affect women differently than men and there are disparities in how these risk factors are treated,” said Judith G. Regensteiner, Ph.D, chair of the statement writing group and professor of medicine and director of the Center for Women’s Health Research at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.
So what does this mean for women with type 2 diabetes? The association’s research found that women who fall into this category:
- Have heart attacks at earlier ages than men
- Are more likely than men to die after a first heart attack
- Are less likely than men to undergo procedures to open clogged arteries
- Are less likely than men to take blood pressure-lowering medications, aspirin or cholesterol-lowering medications
- Are less likely than men to have their blood sugar or blood pressure under control
- Develop type 2 diabetes based on sex-specific differences, like gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome
African-American and Hispanic women with type 2 diabetes are also disproportionately affected by coronary artery disease and stroke in comparison to men with type 2 diabetes.
With this information in mind, it's good for women with type 2 diabetes to watch for common coronary heart disease and heart attack symptoms. Most women experience some kind of chest pain, pressure or discomfort during a heart attack; however, it might not be severe enough to raise alarm, and it can be accompanied by other, more prominent symptoms. It's even possible for women to experience a heart attack without any chest pain at all. Keep an eye out for other symptoms, including:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
- Pain in the right arm
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Unusual fatigue
These subtle symptoms can often go unnoticed, be triggered by stress and may occur when a woman is resting or sleeping. For this reason, women often take medical action too late. If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, seek immediate medical attention, and don't drive yourself to the emergency room unless you have no other options.
Learn more about the less common symptoms of a heart attack and how to stay heart healthy at any age.