Diabetes in Pregnancy Tied to Heart Risks in Young Adult Children

People whose mothers had diabetes before or during pregnancy have an increased risk for heart disease as young adults, new research suggests. The risk was apparent both for children of mothers with pre-existing Type 2 diabetes and for children whose mothers developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

The study, in the journal CMAJ, included 293,546 people born to mothers in Manitoba between 1979 and 2005. Almost 3 percent were exposed to gestational diabetes and 1.1 percent to maternal Type 2 diabetes. The scientists followed the offsprings’ health through age 35.

They found that after adjustment for other factors, exposure to gestational diabetes was associated with a 27 percent increased risk for a cardiovascular event — heart attack, cardiac arrest, coronary artery disease or stroke. The group was also 85 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular disease risk factor such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

For people whose mothers had pre-existing diabetes, the risks were even greater: a 48 percent increased risk for a cardiovascular event, and more than three times the risk for having a cardiovascular disease risk factor compared with people whose mothers were not diabetic.

“Not only is the risk for heart disease increased in people exposed to maternal diabetes,” said the lead author, Jonathan McGavock, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Manitoba, “but they develop risk factors four years earlier than the unexposed, thereby compounding their lifetime risk for heart disease.”

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