Many studies have shown that diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women to a greater extent than in men. One explanation could be that diabetes has more adverse effects on CVD risk factors in women than in men. We compared diabetes-associated differences in CVD risk factors in men and women in the Strong Heart Study, a population-based study of CVD and its risk factors in American Indians.


A total of 1,846 men and 2,703 women between the ages of 45 and 74 years from 13 American Indian communities in three geographic areas underwent an examination that included a medical history; an electrocardiogram; anthropometric and blood pressure measurements; an oral glucose tolerance test; and measurements of fasting plasma lipoproteins, fibrinogen, insulin, HbA1c, and urinary albumin.


Statistically significantly greater adverse differences in those with diabetes versus those without diabetes were observed in women than in men for waist-to-hip ratio, HDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein (apo)B, apoA1, fibrinogen, and LDL size. In multiple linear regression models adjusting for age, center, sex, and diabetes, the diabetes by sex interaction terms were statistically significant for waist-to-hip ratio, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, apoB, apoA1, fibrinogen, and LDL size.


Compared with diabetes-associated differences in men, diabetes in women was related to greater adverse differences in levels of several CVD risk factors. Although the magnitude of the individual diabetes-related differences between men and women was not large, the combined effects of these risk factor differences in diabetic women may be substantial. The apparent greater negative impact of diabetes on CVD risk factors in women may explain, in part, the greater risk for CVD in diabetic women.

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