Women with gestational diabetes could have an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) regardless of whether they develop type 2 diabetes, research shows.
This study, conducted by Canadian scientists, investigated the role of type 2 diabetes in vascular outcomes among women who gave birth between April 1994 and March 2014.
A total of 1,515,079 women with type 2 diabetes were evaluated as part of the study, who were divided into four groups: those with gestational diabetes who developed type 2 diabetes; those with gestational diabetes who didn’t develop type 2 diabetes; those without gestational diabetes who developed type 2 diabetes; and those without gestational diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
The women were followed for an average of 10 years, with the researchers primarily monitoring microvascular and macrovascular outcomes.
Even in the absence of type 2 diabetes, women with gestational diabetes had increased CVD outcomes, which remained significant after accounting for age, income and place of residence.
“Although event rates are low, women in whom [gestational diabetes] is diagnosed have an elevated risk for the future development of CVD, whether or not [type 2 diabetes] develops in the years after the pregnancy,” wrote the study authors.
“Progression to [type 2 diabetes] only modifies the magnitude of this risk increment. In contrast, the risks of advanced retinopathy, nephropathy and foot infection outcomes are only increased in women in whom [type 2 diabetes] develops.”
Researchers Revi Retnakaran and Bajiu Shah, from the University of Toronto, suggest that women who have previous had gestational diabetes “may benefit from earlier cardiovascular risk factor assessment”.

They add that their findings show that CVD risk associated with gestational diabetes is not purely driven by the increased risk for later type 2 diabetes, but type 2 diabetes amplifies this risk.
The study appears in the online journal Diabetes Care.

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