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Women with gestational diabetes (or GDM, which occurs during pregnancy) have been found to have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke (also known as a cardiovascular event).

Women who had GDM in pregnancy were already known to have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, and a team of Canadian researchers explored whether the increased risk of a cardiovascular event in these women was due to their gestational diabetes only, or to the development of type 2 diabetes.

They looked at nine studies published between 2013 and 2018 that followed more than five million women with and without gestational diabetes.

The results showed that women who had GDM were twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke after they gave birth than women who did not have GDM. This risk was highest during the 10 years after giving birth.

The researchers also found that women who had GDM were at increased risk for a cardiovascular event whether or not they developed type 2 diabetes later in life. Women who had GDM but did not develop type 2 diabetes still had a 56 per cent higher risk for a cardiovascular event with women who had not had GDM.

The study’s lead author is Dr. Ravi Retnakaran, an endocrinologist at the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, research has been funded by Diabetes Canada in the past. He recommends women diagnosed with GDM be identified as having a high risk of cardiovascular disease so they can be monitored and steps can be taken to lessen the risk.

Did You Know?

You can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke considerably by paying careful attention to your risk factors, and by taking medications (if recommended) to manage the risk. Read more in What Medications Should I Be Taking to Protect Myself from Heart Disease and Stroke?

(This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Summer 2019)

Author: Elizabeth McCammon

Category Tags: Pregnancy, Research;

Region: National

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