November 7, 2007 > Women with Diabetes Suffer More Health Risks
Women with Diabetes Suffer More Health Risks
Washington Hospital Lunch and Learn Focuses on Challenges Women Face
Diabetes can be particularly hard on women. Women with diabetes are at greater risk for complications than men, and even women who don't have the disease can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
"Many people are unaware of the unique challenges diabetes presents women," said Vida Reed, a registered nurse and diabetes educator at Washington Hospital. She will discuss these challenges along with tips for staying healthy at an upcoming Lunch and Learn Session.
"Diabetes and Women" is scheduled for noon on Tuesday, November 13, at the Washington Hospital Women's Center, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. An encore session will be held on November 13 at 2 p.m. For more information or to reserve a space, call (510) 608-1356.
Diabetes can take a serious toll on the body, especially for women. The disease affects the body's ability to produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy for daily living. When insulin does not work the way it should, blood sugar (glucose) levels rise. While the cause is still unknown, both genetics and environmental factors like obesity and lack of exercise appear to have roles.
More than 20 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes, including 9.7 million women, according to the American Diabetes Association. The majority have Type 2 diabetes, which means the body isn't producing enough insulin or isn't using it properly. Type 1 diabetes results when the body doesn't produce any insulin and affects less than 10 percent of those with the disease.
Women with diabetes are 50 percent more likely than men with diabetes to suffer from a diabetic coma, according to the American Diabetes Association. They are at greater risk for heart disease - the most common complication of diabetes - than women without the disease. They are also more likely to die from their first heart attack than men with diabetes.
Reproductive System Poses Challenges
In addition to being at higher risk for complications, women with diabetes face unique challenges due to their reproductive systems. Diabetes can cause difficulties during pregnancy such as birth defects or even miscarriage.
To lower the risks, women with diabetes who are thinking about getting pregnant have to be vigilant about keeping their blood glucose levels under control before they conceive and throughout their entire pregnancy.
Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before can experience gestational diabetes during pregnancy, which increases their risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. While the cause is not certain, scientists think hormones that help the baby develop block the action of the mother's insulin.
Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can hurt the baby. Blood glucose passes through the placenta, giving the baby high blood glucose levels, which causes the pancreas to make extra insulin to get rid of it. This extra energy is stored as fat, causing a host of health problems, including damage to the baby's shoulders during birth, breathing problems, and increased risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Reed will explain these complications as well as other issues that affect women with diabetes, including birth control, menstruation and menopause. These all cause changes in hormone levels, which can affect blood glucose.
"It's important for women to work with their healthcare team to make sure these issues are addressed," Reed said.
She will also provide tips for staying healthy, including keeping blood glucose levels under control, exercising, eating right and maintaining a healthy weight.
To get your questions answered and learn more about diabetes and women, attend the Lunch and Learn Session on November 13. To reserve a space, call (510) 608-1356.
For more information about other Washington Hospital programs and services, visit www.whhs.com.