How does diabetes affect a woman’s heart attack and stroke risk?

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Dr. Eileen A. Kelly, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Women with diabetes are 3-7 times more likely to have a heart attack than women without diabetes.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Diabetes increases the risk of heart attack and stroke for both men and women. Adults with diabetes, for example, are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than people without diabetes. They are also two to four times more likely to have a stroke. In fact, when researchers looked at death certificates of people over age 65 with diabetes, 68 percent had some form of cardiovascular disease. But as bad as these risks are for everyone with diabetes, they are even higher for women. Women with diabetes are at especially high risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.

Diabetes increases your risk for heart attack and stroke two to four times above the general population. Women without diabetes are protected against cardiovascular disease until menopause. This is not the case for women with diabetes. Diabetes overrides the protective effect of estrogen. If you have diabetes, your risk for heart attack and heart disease is six times that of a woman without diabetes.

Total cholesterol levels tend to rise and levels of “good,” or HDL, cholesterol tend to drop after menopause. For some women, hormone re­placement therapy may increase triglycerides, a common problem in type 2 diabetes. High blood glucose levels can make this situation even worse. Keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels on target can help.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.