MONDAY, Jan. 21, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Increased blood sugar levels signal a heightened risk of heart disease, especially among women, a new study finds.
In fact, women may face a greater risk for heart disease at lower blood sugar levels than men, according to the report in the Jan. 22 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"The new definition of high fasting glucose, which is defined as a blood sugar between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter [of blood], has the same predictive value of diabetes and heart disease as the old definition of fasting glucose, which was 110 to 125 milligrams per deciliter," said lead researcher Dr. Caroline Fox, a medical officer with the Framingham Heart Study.
Moreover, for any level of blood sugar, women have a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease compared with men, Fox added.
In the study, Fox and her colleagues collected data on 4,058 men and women who were the children of the original participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a 50-year research project named for a Massachusetts town. During four years of follow-up, 291 people in Fox's trial developed heart disease.
The researchers found that the higher the blood sugar at the start of the study, the greater the likelihood of developing heart disease. Based on the new definition of high blood sugar, the researchers determined that women were at greater risk for developing heart disease than men.
Specifically, women whose blood sugar was at 110 to 125 milligrams per deciliter of blood had the same risk of developing heart disease as women with diabetes.
Dr. John B. Buse, president for medicine & science at the American Diabetes Association (ADA), said this study confirms what other studies have found.
"Women who don't have diabetes usually don't have heart attacks," said Buse, who is director of the Diabetes Care Center at the University of North Carolina. "Women with diabetes, basically, all have heart attacks."
People at risk of diabetes should have their blood sugar measured, Buse added. "If the fasting glucose test is elevated more than 100 milligrams per deciliter [of blood], it means that you are at risk of developing diabetes and you may have some excess risk of heart disease, particularly if you are a woman," he said.
The ADA recommends that everyone over age 45 should have a fasting glucose test, Buse said. "Normal is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter, so 99 is normal, 100 isn't," he said. "If the test is normal it should be repeated every three years."
People under 45 who are overweight and have any risk factors for diabetes should be screened earlier and more often, he said.
For more on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.