Diabetes in Pregnancy Raises Risk of Heart Disease

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Women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk not only for Type 2 diabetes later in life, but for heart disease and hypertension as well.

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed if there is any glucose intolerance with its onset during pregnancy, and about 6 to 8 percent of pregnant women develop the condition.

British researchers studied 9,118 women with gestational diabetes, comparing them with 37,281 healthy controls. The study, published in PLOS Medicine, had an average three years of follow-up.

The women who had gestational diabetes were 20 times as likely as controls to develop Type 2 diabetes, consistent with previous studies, and the risk was highest in the first year after giving birth. In addition, these women were 2.8 times as likely to have heart disease, and nearly twice as likely to develop high blood pressure. The researchers controlled for age, body mass index, ethnicity, smoking and other variables.

Gestational diabetes did not increase the risk for stroke.

The senior author, Dr. Krishnarajah Nirantharakumar, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham in Britain, had this advice for women who were diabetic during pregnancy: “Make sure you get yourself checked annually for diabetes, and also take the opportunity to get your lipids and blood pressure checked. If you’re smoking, stop. And if you are obese, make an effort to lose weight, or at least not to gain weight.”