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 not.
Among those with diabetes, females had higher blood sugar and cholesterol levels a
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