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June 2019

The New Battle of the Sexes: Diabetes Strikes Men and Women Differently

In some ways, diabetes doesn’t discriminate. Men and women are equally likely to develop the disease. Both must work closely with their doctors to manage it.

A woman and man smiling, standing back to back

But in other important aspects, diabetes isn’t an equal-opportunity offender. Women often—but not always—bear the greater burden. Understanding the unique ways the condition affects each gender is important. Discussing them with your doctor can help you take control of your health.  

Women can get gestational diabetes

As many as 1 in 10 women who didn’t have diabetes before will develop it during pregnancy. Women who are overweight or obese and those with a family history of diabetes are at an increased risk. Usually, your blood glucose returns to normal soon after the baby is born. But your risk for type 2 diabetes remains higher. You can lower your risk by reaching a healthy weight after pregnancy.

More men undergo amputation

A combination of poor blood flow and nerve damage contributes to foot infections in people with diabetes. As a result, they’re more likely to lose a limb than the general population. Amputations are more frequent among men. But more women die from complications related to the surgery.

Women with diabetes are more prone to depression

In general, depression strikes women twice as often as men. All too often, mood problems go hand in hand with diabetes, each fueling the other. The combination of diabetes and depression can be deadly: It doubles the risk for death.

Diabetes has a bigger effect on women’s heart risks

Overall, women have lower odds of getting heart disease than men. But diabetes turns the tables. Both women and men with diabetes have about twice the risk for heart disease than those without diabetes. But women with diabetes have almost double the risk for heart disease than men with the condition, and close to a third greater risk for stroke.

Regardless of gender, most people with diabetes die as a result of heart disease or stroke. Healthy habits such as eating right, exercising, and keeping your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure under control can help you live a longer, healthier life. Certain medicines, such as statins, may help prevent heart disease in some people with diabetes. 



Online Medical Reviewer: Chang, Alice, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/19/2019
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