How Diabetes Affects Men and Women Differently

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 34 million men and women in the United States are living with diabetes, a chronic condition that interferes with your ability to regulate your blood sugar. Another 88 million have prediabetes, bringing the total to more than 100 million people.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when you don’t produce enough of the hormone insulin to keep blood sugar under control. With Type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin, but doesn’t use it properly so your blood sugar is elevated. 

Dr. Farah Khan and our team of experts at Millennium Park Medical Associates help our patients here in Greenwood Village, Colorado, manage their diabetes symptoms and keep their blood sugar controlled. 

One of the interesting aspects of diabetes is that it doesn’t treat men and women equally. Here are some of the ways you might experience diabetes differently depending on your sex. 

Prevalence

More men (14.6%) than women (9.1%) have Type 2 diabetes. These statistics were compiled from a study of almost 1,400 men and women over 70 years old. 

Risk factors

Certain risk factors are gender blind. For example, regardless of your sex, you’re at higher risk for diabetes if it runs in your family, you eat mostly junk food, you don’t exercise, you smoke, or you’re overweight. But there are some nuances within those risk factors that are important to note.

While overweight men and women both risk developing diabetes, men are often diagnosed with the condition at a lower body mass index (BMI) than women. 

Stress, depression, and anxiety both exacerbate diabetes, so women, who tend to worry more, may have worse symptoms than men.

Age and life stage

Before puberty, more girls than boys are diagnosed with diabetes. After puberty, the stats flip, and boys’ rate of diagnoses surpasses girls’. The number reverses again as women enter menopause and postmenopause. The common denominator here is hormone fluctuation and imbalance. 

Symptom awareness

Although the symptoms of diabetes are similar in men and women, women may not recognize that they’re warning signs of a medical condition, but rather write them off as the price you pay for being busy or growing older. 

For example, women may think that blurry vision is an inevitable sign of aging or that being constantly thirsty just means they didn’t drink enough water. And while these explanations may be true, they are also classic diabetes symptoms that many women ignore

Heart problems

Without diabetes, women suffer from heart disease more often than men, but when you add diabetes to the equation, women are six times more likely to get and die from heart disease, while men’s chances only increase by a factor of two. 

And for diabetic women who suffer from heart disease as well, the prognosis is dim. Diabetic women have more complications after heart attacks than men. And because heart attack warning signs are more subtle in women, it may mean that they don’t seek treatment as early as their male counterparts. 

Female factors

There are certain women-only issues that affect diabetes. One example is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This hormonal disorder not only causes the development of ovarian cysts, it also increases the chances of developing diabetes. 

Another example is gestational diabetes, which is a form of the disease exclusive to women. Although it’s typically a temporary condition that resolves after childbirth, having gestational diabetes ups your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later. 

Equal opportunity treatment for diabetes

Whether you’re male or female, if you have diabetes, you can find the best treatments and most engaged and compassionate care team here at Millennium Park Medical Associates. From lifestyle changes to medication, we can help you manage your diabetes symptoms and help you thrive despite your medical condition. 

To schedule an appointment for your diabetes risk assessment or treatment, call us or book online today.

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