(Baptist Health) – Diabetes means your body has trouble making or using the hormone insulin. Without it, sugar can build up in your blood. And that can lead to serious health problems.

From that description, you might expect the disease to affect women and men in much the same way. But in reality, diabetes can take a unique toll on women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are just a few ways that happens:

Diabetes and your heart

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease for everyone, but even more so for women than for men. Women with diabetes also have worse survival rates after a heart attack.

Why is that? The American Heart Association says one factor may be differences in treatment, with women less likely to use heart-protective medicines, like statins. But sex hormones and other heart disease risk factors may play a role too.

If you’re a woman with diabetes, it’s especially important to get regular blood pressure and cholesterol tests and to talk to your doctor about medicines that can keep your heart healthy.

Diabetes and your reproductive system

Changes in your hormone levels before and during your period can make blood sugar levels harder to manage. This can happen after menopause too. Plus, diabetes may also increase the risk of vaginal dryness, yeast infections and pregnancy complications.

If you’re experiencing any of these issues, it’s important to tell your doctor. Your doctor can help you find treatments and manage the risks. Birth control, for instance, may be an option to help manage hormone levels. And your doctor can create a treatment plan to help keep you and your baby well during pregnancy.

Diabetes and other health problems

Women also have a higher risk of diabetes complications like blindness, kidney failure and depression. So it’s especially important to work with your doctor on a plan to manage and treat these risks.

You are not alone

Diabetes affects about 1 in every 9 adult women in the U.S. Managing the disease may seem overwhelming, but you can still live a healthy life. To put yourself on a good path:

  • Speak up for yourself. Tell your doctor you want to stay on top of these risks, and ask what you can do.
  • Stay active. Even a walk a day can make a difference.
  • Make heart-healthy food choices. Smart eating habits can help you manage your blood sugar and lower your heart disease risks at the same time.

You can do this! Explore more tips on keeping your spirits up when you’re managing diabetes.