MONDAY, Aug. 24, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- A glucose challenge test given to pregnant women may also show if they have an increased risk of heart disease in the future, a new study has found.
This finding is important because doctors might be able to begin using current screening procedures for gestational diabetes to identify women who are at risk for developing heart disease later in life, the researchers said. Heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States and Canada.
While women with gestational diabetes -- a condition leading to temporarily high blood sugars during pregnancy -- have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those without, no one knew if mild glucose intolerance in pregnancy is associated with heart disease, the study authors noted.
Gestational diabetes is an important risk factor for future type 2 diabetes. Pregnant women are generally screened for gestational diabetes with a glucose challenge test in the second trimester. If the result is abnormal, they have an oral glucose tolerance test to confirm the diagnosis, according to information in a news release about the study, which is published in the current issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
For the study, researchers examined data on 435,696 women in Ontario who gave birth between April 1994 and March 1998. All of the women were followed until March 31, 2008, and the study excluded women who had preexisting diabetes.
"Women who had an abnormal glucose challenge test but then did not have gestational diabetes had an increased risk of future cardiovascular disease compared to the general population, but a lower risk than women who actually did have gestational diabetes," co-author Dr. Baiju Shah, of the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.
The American Diabetes Association has more information on gestational diabetes.