MONDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that
girls and young women with type 1 diabetes show signs of risk
factors for cardiovascular disease at an early age.
The findings don't definitively prove that type 1 diabetes, the
kind that often begins in childhood, directly causes the risk
factors, and heart attack and stroke remain rare in young people.
But they do spotlight the differences between the genders when it
comes to the risk of heart problems for diabetics, said study
co-author Dr. R. Paul Wadwa, an assistant professor of pediatrics
at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.
"We're seeing measurable differences early in life, earlier than we expected," he said. "We need to make sure we're screening appropriately for cardiovascular risk factors, and with girls, it seems like it's even more important."
According to Wadwa, diabetic adults are at higher risk of
cardiovascular disease than others without diabetes. Diabetic
women, in particular, seem to lose some of the protective effects
that their gender provides against heart problems, Wadwa said.
"Women are protected from cardiovascular disease in the pre-menopausal state probably because they are exposed to sex hormones, mainly estrogen," said Dr. Joel Zonszein, a clinical medicine professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "This protection may be ameliorated or lost in individuals with diabetes."
It's not clear, however, when diabetic females begin to lose
their advantage. In the new study, Wadwa and colleagues looked
specifically at type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes
since it's often diagnosed in childhood.
The researchers tested 402 children and young adults aged 12 to
19 from the Denver area. Some had type 1 diabetes and others did
Among those with diabetes, females had higher blood sugar and
cholesterol levels and were more overweight than males. High blood
sugar, high cholesterol and excess weight all boost the risk of
"While generally we don't see heart attack and stroke in teenagers, we know that what we see in teenagers lays the groundwork for later in life," Wadwa said. "Measurable differences in these factors at such a young age puts them at a higher risk later on in life."
It's not clear, however, whether other factors like obesity
could explain the risk factors, he said.
For pediatricians, the study shows the importance of keeping
close track of diabetic teens, and urging a healthy diet, exercise
and medication if necessary, Wadwa said.
But Zonszein said the usefulness of the study is limited because
it doesn't provide a new message. However, he added, it does offer
valid advice about the importance of a healthy diet, proper
exercise and control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The study was scheduled to be released Monday at an American
Diabetes Association meeting in San Diego. Experts note that
research presented at meetings is considered preliminary because it
has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for
publication in a medical journal.
The American Diabetes Association has more on
type 1 diabetes.
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