Global Study: Diabetes Increases Risk of Heart Failure in Women More Than Men

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By : Suvarna Sheth

The link between heart failure and diabetes has been known, but new research shows that women with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are a greater risk of heart failure compared with men.

The global study which compiled data from 10 countries: Australia, U.S., U.K., Italy, Sweden, Canada, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea, looked at 12 million people and over 200,000 cases of heart failure.

They found that Type 1 diabetes was associated with a 47% increased risk of heart failure in women compared with men, and Type 2 diabetes was associated with a 9% increased risk

“It is already known that diabetes puts you at greater risk of developing heart failure but what our study shows for the first time is that women are at far greater risk – for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes,” says lead author, Dr. Toshiaki Ohkuma from The George Institute for Global Health.

The reason for the difference in risk between Type 1 and Type 2 is not clear.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-limb amputation.

In pregnancy, poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk of maternal and fetal complications. Women with Type 2 diabetes also have a significantly increased risk of depression in comparison to men.

The George Institute has been leading gender-specific research and has already shown women with diabetes have a significantly greater excess risk of stroke and coronary heart disease as well as the non-cardiovascular complications of dementia and cancer than men.

It is currently investigating gender differences in stroke as well as other chronic diseases.

Ohkuma says the increased risk of heart failure following a diabetes diagnosis is significantly greater in women than men which highlights the importance of intensive prevention and treatment of diabetes in women.

“Further research is required to understand the mechanisms underpinning the excess risk of heart failure conferred by diabetes, particularly Type 1, in women and to reduce the burden associated with diabetes in both sexes,” she adds.

Study co-author Dr. Sanne Peters, of The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford, believes there are a number of reasons why women with diabetes are at greater risk of heart complications.

“Women were reported to have two years’ longer duration of prediabetes than men and this increased duration may be associated with greater excess risk of heart failure in women,” says Peters.

She adds some major concerns are that women are also being undertreated for diabetes, are not taking the same levels of medications as men, and are less likely to receive intensive care.

The IDF reports that girls and women with diabetes experience a range of challenges. Gender roles, power imbalances, socioeconomic inequalities resulting in poor diet and lack of physical activity can all influence vulnerability to diabetes.

Women’s limited access to health services and lack of pro-activity when it comes to seeking treatment for health problems can also amplify the impact of diabetes, particularly in developing countries.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), currently, 415 million adults worldwide live with diabetes – with approximately 199 million of them being women.

The IDF expects by the year 2040 around 313 million women will be suffering from the disease. Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women and claims 2.1 million female lives every year, more so than men. The number one leading cause of death for women is heart disease.

The researchers conclude their study highlights the need for further sex-specific research into diabetes and how the condition can potentially contribute to heart complications.

The findings are published in Diabetologia.


  1. George Institute for Global Health. (2019, Jul 23). Diabetes increases the risk of heart failure; more so in women than men. EurekAlert! Retrieved July 23, 2019, from