Women with type 1 diabetes are at a four times greater risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those who don’t have diabetes. What’s more, pre-menopausal women with diabetes do not seem to have the beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors that other pre-menopausal women have. This morning at the American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions®, researchers presented their findings when they looked at how early in life these risks develop.
The study looked at two groups of participants between the ages of 13 and 17: one group living with type 1 diabetes and one group without diabetes. They looked at risk factors for CVD, including A1C, LDL-cholesterol (known as the “bad cholesterol”), systolic blood pressure (the number on top), body mass index (BMI), and C-reactive protein (CRP) which can be used to assess the body’s response to arterial damage.
The girls with type 1 diabetes had higher levels of CVD risk factors when compared to the girls who didn’t have diabetes. They also had higher CRP, LDL-cholesterol, A1C and BMI compared to boys who also had type 1 diabetes. When the researchers made further adjustments, they found that the risk factors in girls with type 1 diabetes were still significant when compared to girls without diabetes (all risk factors) and when compared to boys with type 1 diabetes (CRP and LDL-cholesterol). They also found that diabetes in this youth group had a more detrimental effect in girls than in boys when it came to LDL-cholesterol and systolic blood pressure.
So what does this mean? Adolescence may be a critical time for CVD prevention for girls with type 1 diabetes. It’s never too early to aim for regular exercise and eating more heart-healthy foods.