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Why Diabetes is Riskier for Women

By Jennifer Oldham, Special to Lifescript

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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, American Indian and Alaska Native adults are 2.3 times as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. The disease is the fourth leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives, affecting about 16% of the population. Information about diabetes from Tanka friend Lifescript runs occasionally in our blog, Walking the Way of Wellness.

One out of every 10 American women is living with diabetes, which causes more deaths each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Still, most Americans don't see it as a serious disease, according to a recent survey. Here's why women should worry:

Are you overweight and hate working out? Were you diagnosed with gestational diabetes during a past pregnancy?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you're at risk for developing diabetes, a chronic, incurable disease that raises the risk of heart disease, kidney failure and more.

Diabetes poses special problems for women. It increases your chances of having complications during pregnancy, such as birth defects, miscarriage and large babies. And women with the disease are also more likely to die younger.

"If you see a 40-year-old woman with chest pain, she's [not] likely to have a heart attack," says Andrew Drexler, M.D., an endocrinologist and director of UCLA's Gonda Diabetes Center. "But if she's diabetic, that's not true."

The federal government spends billions each year conducting diabetes research, with scientists searching for more efficient ways to manage the disease.

What are the latest advances and how are women affected by the disease? For answers, we sat down with Drexler, who heads one of the nation's leading diabetes treatment centers. Read on for his recommendations.

What's the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that destroys islet cells [which produce insulin] in the pancreas. Insulin controls [blood sugar levels] in the body.

For more about diabetes: LifeScript
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