Young Diabetics Encounter Heart Problems
by Jennifer Wider, MD
(Washington DC, 11/20/03): Type 2 diabetes has long been implicated as a risk
factor in cardiovascular disease in adults. A new study published in the November
2003 issue of Diabetes Care reveals that people with early-onset type
2 diabetes are at an even greater risk for a heart attack. This is especially
true for women. Early-onset diabetes type 2, defined by the study as a diagnosis
of diabetes between the ages of 18 and 44, seems to be a significant risk factor
for heart disease.
Researchers from the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente in Portland,
Ore., used clinical data from the medical records of 7,844 adults who were newly
diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. They compared the results of people diagnosed
before and after the age of 45 in an attempt to determine if diabetes played
a more aggressive role in younger adults. Although diabetes made the chance
of stroke and heart attack more likely for young and old alike, the risk was
much more prominent in young people.
"Our study is the first that we are aware of to show that the risk of
heart disease is greater in younger diabetic women," says Kathryn Pedula, MS,
senior research associate at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and
one of the study's investigators. "Further research is necessary to determine
why this is true."
One possible explanation is that women in this age category and their physicians
may not take chest pain seriously enough. Heart disease is more common in older
patients and symptoms in a younger patient that might predict a more dangerous
outcome may be ignored, "Measures to prevent a more severe event, such as a
myocardial infarction, are not always initiated," Pedula said.
The number of diabetes cases is on the rise in the United States. "Young adults
are the fastest growing adult group for both obesity and diabetes," Pedula said.
"Unhealthy diets and lack of exercise are major contributors to both obesity
and the development of type 2 diabetes."
People with diabetes have too much glucose or sugar in their blood. Their bodies
are unable to properly absorb the glucose into their cells. There are several
types of diabetes-- the main ones are type 1 and type 2. Type 2 diabetes can
develop at any age, but being overweight, inactive and having a family history
of the disease can increase the chance of getting it. Diabetes can shorten a
person's life and contribute to the development of heart, eye, blood vessel
and kidney diseases.
Diabetic women may have fertility problems and are at an increased risk for
pregnancy complications. Babies born to diabetic mothers tend to be heavier
and may cause problems during labor and delivery. But young diabetic women are
more likely to be diagnosed with the disease when compared with men in the same
age group. "This is because young women use more health care services than do
young men, thereby increasing the opportunity for diabetes diagnosis," explains
People need to be aware of their risk for developing diabetes. "A family history
of type 2 diabetes and obesity are strong risk factors," Pedula said, and in
women, "a history of gestational diabetes (elevated blood glucose during pregnancy)
is also a risk factor for diabetes later in life." Weight management and exercise
can dramatically lower a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The Society for Women's
Health Research is the nation's only not-for-profit organization
whose sole mission is to improve the health of women through research. Founded
in 1990, the Society brought to national attention the need for the appropriate
inclusion of women in major medical research studies and the resulting need
for more information about conditions affecting women. The Society advocates
increased funding for research on women's health, encourages the study of sex
differences that may affect the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease,
and promotes the inclusion of women in medical research studies. Dr. Donnica
Moore has been a member of the Society since 1990 and is a past member of its
Board of Directors.
© November 20, 2003 Society for Women's Health Research
Created: 11/20/2003  - Jennifer Wider, M.D.
Reviewed: 11/21/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.