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Female type 1 diabetes patients at 'higher vascular risk' than men

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Women with type 1 diabetes at significantly higher risk of dying compared with men, according to Australian researchers.

Women were found to face a 40% increased excess risk of death from all causes, and have more than twice the risk of dying from heart disease, compared to men with type 1 diabetes.

The findings come from a large meta-analysis involving more than 200,000 diabetes patients, which was published today in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

“We know that people with type 1 diabetes have shorter life expectancies than the general population, from both acute and long-term diabetic complications,” said study author Professor Rachel Huxley, from the University of Queensland.

“But, until now, it was not clear whether this excess risk of mortality is the same in women and men with the disease,” she said.

“On average, women live longer than men. But, our findings show that in women with type 1 diabetes this ‘female protection’ seems to be lost and excess deaths in women with type 1 diabetes are higher than in men with the disease,” she added.

“Excess deaths in women with type 1 diabetes are higher than in men with the disease”

Rachel Huxley

The researchers analysed data from 26 studies involving 214,114 individuals with the disease. They found a 37% higher excess risk of dying from any cause in women with type 1 diabetes compared with men who have the disorder.

In particular, women had nearly double the excess risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease than men.

Women with type 1 diabetes also faced a greater excess risk of strokes (37%) and were 44% more likely to die from kidney disease than men with the disorder.

The authors suggested that poorer glycaemic control and difficulties in insulin management, which are more common among women, could be contributing to the increased risk of vascular-related death in women.

“Changes to girls’ bodies during puberty can make it more difficult for them to get their diabetes under control”

Simon O’Neill

Professor Huxley, “The marked difference between the sexes for vascular-related disease is likely to have profound clinical implications for how women with type 1 diabetes are treated and managed throughout their lives.”

Simon O’Neill, director of health intelligence at Diabetes UK, said: “The exact reasons behind this [finding] are not clear but there has been some evidence to suggest that changes to girls’ bodies during puberty can make it more difficult for them to get their diabetes under control. 

“We also know that people with type 1 diabetes, particularly younger people with the condition, are less likely to get their annual checks and have their condition under control than other people with diabetes,” he said.

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