Diabetes in Pregnancy Tied to Future Heart Disease Risk

By Lisa Rapaport

March 28, 2019

(Reuters Health) - Women with pregnancy-related diabetes are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease in the decade after childbirth, a research review suggests.

While gestational diabetes has long been linked to an increased risk of heart disease later in life, some previous research suggests this risk may depend on whether the condition evolves into type 2 diabetes that persists after delivery.

Researchers examined data from nine previous studies with almost 5.4 million mothers. Overall, about 8,000 women with a history of gestational diabetes experienced cardiovascular events, as did more than 93,000 women without this pregnancy complication.

"This study demonstrates that women with gestational diabetes have a 2-fold higher risk of major cardiovascular events than their peers," said senior study author Dr. Ravi Retnakaran of the University of Toronto.

"This increased risk is not dependent upon (type 2 diabetes)," Retnakaran said by email. "The risk differential between women with gestational diabetes and their peers emerges within the first decade after pregnancy."

Compared to women who didn't have gestational diabetes, those who did had a 2.3-fold greater risk of events like heart attacks and strokes within the first decade after giving birth.

Even when researchers looked only at women who didn't have type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, gestational diabetes was still associated with a 56% higher risk of serious cardiac events, the researchers write in Diabetologia.

"Although it is not entirely clear, most people believe that pregnancy is like a stress test for future diabetes and heart disease," said Dr. Jacinda Mawson Nicklas, a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora who wasn't involved in the study.

"So it is not that gestational diabetes causes increased risk, but that when a woman gets gestational diabetes she is revealing an increased risk that was already there," Nicklas said by email.

Women who do develop gestational diabetes may need regular heart health checkups even while they're still relatively young, the study authors conclude.

"Gestational diabetes is common and can happen even in normal weight women," Nicklas said.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2U0VF4p

Diabetologia 2019.