Women with diabetes are 44% more likely to develop coronary heart disease than men with the illness, according to an international study review.
The research, recently published in the journal Diabetologia, looked at 65 studies including 858,507 people and covering data from 1966 to 2011.
The findings showed women with diabetes were 44% more at risk of having a fatal or non-fatal coronary heart disease incident than men with diabetes.
“More research is needed to understand why women with diabetes were found to be at greater risk”
The researchers speculated that women may have to metabolically deteriorate more than men to become diabetic, which would put them at a worse starting point before beginning treatment.
They also found risk factor levels were more elevated in women than in men during the pre-diabetic state.
For example, the UK General Practice Research Database shows the body mass index of women at the time of diabetes diagnosis is, on average, almost two whole units higher (1.8kg/m2) than that of men.
“It is conceivable, therefore, that the diabetes-related excess risk of CHD in women may be due to a combination of both a greater deterioration in cardiovascular risk factor levels and a chronically elevated cardiovascular risk profile in the pre-diabetic state, driven by greater levels of adiposity in women compared with men,” the study authors said.
They suggested that implementing sex-specific “interventions” before diabetes manifests could “have a substantial impact on the prevention of CHD”.
They said such interventions could include increased screening for pre-diabetes, especially in women, and more rigorous follow-ups of women who are at high risk for developing diabetes.
Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Diabetes is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease for both men and women, but the links between the two are complex.
“That’s why more research is needed to understand why women with diabetes were found to be at greater risk of a coronary heart disease incident such as a heart attack when compared to men,” she added.