Dr. Volgman explains if diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease in women.
Women with diabetes, especially if they have metabolic syndrome in conjunction with diabetes (metabolic syndrome is a compilation of different small risk factors like increased weight), so if you are obese, if you have a waist that’s bigger than 35 inches for women, greater than 40 inches for men, you probably have metabolic syndrome. That means you have a lot of fat in your abdomen that can increase your risk of heart disease.
So if you have metabolic syndrome and you have diabetes, that really increases your risk for having heart attack or stroke. Now it is especially bad for women, and we don’t know why it’s such a bad risk factor for women, but a woman with diabetes will have a higher risk of heart disease than a man with diabetes. And more often than not, that woman with diabetes will not be treated for her heart.
Now we are taught as physicians that if you are a diabetic and you are over 40, you should be treated as if you already had a heart attack. And there are so many people that are not being treated as such. And there was a recent report that in the last few decades, from 1971 to 2000, the decline significant in mortality from diabetes in men, there was no decline at all in women.
Again, this is discrimination for women with diabetes. We are not aggressively treating women with diabetes. Doctors are not aggressive in protecting women’s hearts when they have diabetes.
A diabetic over 40 years old should be on the fabulous four drugs: aspirin, beta-blockers, ace inhibitors, and statins. And the women that I see in the hospital who have had a stroke, who have had a devastating stroke so that they will never walk again or talk again or die from that stroke or they will have a heart attack, those women with diabetes are often not on even an aspirin, let alone the ace inhibitor which protects their kidneys, protects their hearts.
So I am seeing so many women who have diabetes who are not even being given one protective drug for their hearts, and this has got to stop. We have really got to empower women with diabetes. And when I give lectures all over the country, there are so many women writing down, “Oh, I am supposed to be on that,” because they are not.
Their doctors are not giving them the right drugs for their hearts to protect their hearts when they are diabetic. So I really want to emphasize that women with diabetes over the age of 40 should protect their hearts and be given these drugs.
About Dr. Volgman, M.D., F.A.C.C.:
Annabelle S. Volgman is associate professor of medicine and medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Dr. Volgman graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University, and received her medical doctorate degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York. She received her internal medicine training at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics and her cardiology fellowship training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She was a fellow in clinical electrophysiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Illinois Masonic Medical Center under Richard Kehoe, M.D.
Dr. Volgman has published numerous abstracts and articles in multiple topics of women and heart disease as well as cardiac electrophysiology. She is currently president of the Metro Chicago Board of Directors of the AHA. She has been a prominent leader of the Go Red for Women movement and has received numerous awards from the American Heart Association. She has been listed in several lists of top doctors and was named a top doctor in the January 2008 issue of “Chicago Magazine.” She has been interviewed by numerous media about health issues and was featured in “O” magazine as Oprah Winfrey’s cardiologist.
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