How Diabetes Differs for Men and Women

diabetes and genderAlthough anyone can develop type 2 diabetes, your lifestyle, age and family history can put you at a higher risk. Common signs of diabetes include weight loss or gain, increased thirst, frequent urination or urinary tract infections, tingling or numb extremities, and feeling lethargic all the time.

Symptoms can develop gradually and can be somewhat difficult to notice; most people find out they are diabetic when they’re visiting the doctor for a different reason altogether.

The Facts about Diabetes and Gender

Recently, studies have revealed some differences in the impact of diabetes on women versus men. Statistics show that 11 percent of women in the United States age 20 and older have diabetes, a number just slightly less than men.

One of the major differences is how the disease is diagnosed. The signs of diabetes in men tend to be more recognizable, making it easier for men to get diagnosed earlier. Men tend to develop type 2 diabetes at a younger age and at a lower weight, which means they receive more aggressive treatment sooner for both diabetes and the potential heart health risks it can bring. Women tend to be further along in the disease when they are diagnosed, making them far more susceptible to complications.

Some of the ways diabetes symptoms in women have a greater impact on overall health include:

  • Heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women with diabetes. When a woman is diabetic, the risk for heart disease is six times higher than for women who do not have diabetes. Studies show that the risk of heart disease to women with diabetes is 50 percent higher than for men with diabetes.
  • Hormonal problems. Women’s hormones can also affect the way they manage their diabetes; menopause can cause changes in blood sugar levels, and some women find it difficult to keep their blood glucose at a normal level around their periods.
  • Mental health. Women with diabetes are more likely to suffer from depression than men. Women in general tend to experience depression twice as often as men, and when coupled with diabetes, it can take more of a toll on women overall.

Being aware of how type 2 diabetes can affect health and quality of life is key for managing diabetes symptoms in women and preventing any complications. Getting the effective health care is essential, too, and studies show that women tend to be treated less aggressively than men for cardiovascular risk factors that can stem from diabetes. Lifestyle changes like getting more exercise and eating healthy foods can help maintain better health and decrease the risk for diabetes.

Women at risk for developing diabetes should get screened often and maintain follow up appointments to ensure they are getting the treatment needed. Women with diabetes should also communicate often with their doctors, making sure they are on the right medications to keep their blood pressure and blood fat levels on target.

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