Diabetic women are at greater risk of heart failure than men

Sarah Knapton
Women with diabetes are at greater risk of heart problems than men - © Bill Cheyrou / Alamy

Diabetic women at higher risk than men of heart failure, a new study has found, as experts warn they may be less able to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep the condition under control.

Women with type 1 diabetes are 47 per cent more likely to suffer heart failure than men,  a study published in the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes found.

For women with type 2 diabetes the risk is nine per cent higher. 

Around four million people in Britain are living with diabetes, with the majority (92 per cent) suffering from type 2.  Around 44 per cent of all cases are women. 

Diabetes is known to be associated with both an increased risk of heart failure, and an increased risk of death following diagnosis. But until now it was not known that women were at far greater risk. 

Experts warn that girls and women often struggle with poor diet and lack of physical activity, and are less likely to receive medication from their doctors, who are unaware that they are at greater risk.

Study co-author Dr Sanne Peters, of The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford, said there are a number of reasons why women with diabetes are at greater risk of heart complications.

"Women were reported to have two years' longer duration of prediabetes than men and this increased duration may be associated with greater excess risk of heart failure in women.

"Some major concerns are that women are also being undertreated for diabetes, are not taking the same levels of medications as men and are less likely to receive intensive care."

Researchers looked at data from 14 studies, with 47 cohorts involving more than 12 million people.

Researchers found type 1 diabetes was associated with a 5.15 times higher risk of heart failure in women, and a 3.47 times higher risk in men.

Type 2 diabetes was associated with a 1.95 times higher risk of heart failure in women, and a 1.74 times higher risk in men.

Commenting on the findings, Dan Howarth, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said: "All people with diabetes are at risk of developing cardiovascular complications; to lower this risk, it’s vital that people with the condition receive the right treatment and medications at the right time.

"However, we know that women living with diabetes often receive lower quality care than their male counterparts, and are less likely than men to be prescribed essential medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"This research reminds us of the importance of ensuring all people with diabetes have access to the best treatment and care available to them, which includes ensuring that women are prescribed the vital medications that they need to stay healthy as frequently as men."