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Link between maternal diabetes and child's CVD 'highlights importance of screening'

Children are at increased risk of developing heart disease in the first 40 years of their life if their mothers had diabetes before or during pregnancy, according to a new study.

The Danish study, published in the BMJ, found that the children of diabetic mothers who are diagnosed before or during pregnancy are associated with increased rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

As a result, researchers said if maternal diabetes is ‘causal’ to developing CVD, then the screening, prevention and treatment of diabetes is encouraged in women of childbearing age.

In the UK, the National Screening Committee does not recommend population screening for type 2 diabetes as it is 'not effective' in improving the health of those at risk, but this is being reviewed and an updated recommendation was due to be published in November.

Other results from the study included those showing rates of children developing early-onset heart disease were also higher if mothers had a history of CVD.

The study involved evaluating over 2.5 million children in Denmark born without congenital heart disease between 1977 to 2016, to look at the association of gestational and pre-gestational diabetes with early-onset CVD in children within the first 40 years of their life.

Findings show children of mothers with pre-gestational diabetes were 34% more likely to have early-onset cardiovascular disease.

The peer-reviewed observational study also found if mothers developed gestational diabetes, their children had a 19% increased risk of CVD.

The study said: ‘Varied increased rates of specific early-onset CVDs were also observed, particularly heart failure, hypertensive disease, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism.

‘Increased rates of CVD were seen in different age groups from childhood to early adulthood until age 40 years.'

The peer-reviewed study noted that maternal diabetes before or during pregnancy is already known to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and congenital heart disease.

The authors said: ‘These findings highlight the importance of effective strategies for screening and preventing diabetes in women of childbearing age. We need to monitor CVD risks in offspring of mothers with diabetes and investigate possible life course interventions that could reduce the occurrence of CVD.’

The study concluded: ‘Children of mothers with diabetes, especially those mothers with a history of CVD or diabetic complications, have increased rates of early-onset CVD from childhood to early adulthood.

‘If maternal diabetes does have a causal association with increased CVD rate in offspring, the prevention, screening, and treatment of diabetes in women of childbearing age could help to reduce the risk of CVD in the next generation.’

A version of this article was originally published by our sister title, Pulse.

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