Gestational diabetes 'points towards heightened risk of heart disease'

Mums to be who develop a form of diabetes while pregnant are at greater risk from heart disease, warns new research.

Women who have gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease in the future, according to the British study.

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Researchers say that rates of GDM are increasing in most developed countries, and previous studies have found that women diagnosed with GDM have an increased lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In the new study, scientists studied the incidence of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and ischemic heart and cerebrovascular diseases in a UK primary care database that included more than 9,000 women diagnosed with GDM between 1990 and 2016.

Women diagnosed with GDM were more than 20 times more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life, over two-and-a-half times more likely to develop ischemic heart disease and almost twice as likely to develop high blood pressure.

Although current guidelines recommend annual screening for diabetes in women diagnosed with GDM, the study also found that follow-up screening for diabetes as well as cardiovascular risk factors was low, with the exception of blood pressure.

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Less than 60 per cent of women were screened in the first year after giving birth, and rates declined thereafter.

Study author Doctor Krishnarajah Nirantharakumar, of Birmingham University, said: "The findings add an important insight into the trajectory of the development of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the early and latter post-partum periods.

"Furthermore, the findings are the first to report on a large UK population and identify an at-risk group of relatively young women ideally suited for targeting risk factor management to improve long term metabolic and cardiovascular outcomes."

The findings were published in the journal PLOS Medicine.