Women Have Special Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
Many of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes are the same for both men and women, but women also have several that only affect them. The findings of a new study of more than 1 million women discussed two of those special risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and there are more.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes related to pregnancy
The list of risk factors for type 2 diabetes is substantial, but a few of the items on the list apply only to women. According to Denice Feig, Department of Medicine and Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and her colleagues at the University of Toronto, the two pregnancy-related conditions that can double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes within a few years of pregnancy are preeclampsia and gestational hypertension (high blood pressure).
An estimated 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies involve preeclampsia, a life-threatening condition in which women develop rapidly progressive high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein in the urine (proteinuria) at around 20 weeks of pregnancy. In a recent study published in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, researchers noted that women with preeclampsia were significantly more likely to develop chronic hypertension and require hospitalization in later years.
Gestational hypertension is the sudden development of high blood pressure at 20 weeks of pregnancy, but no protein is found in the urine. This condition is also called pregnancy-induced hypertension.
In the new study, researchers analyzed data from 1,010,068 pregnant women who gave birth between April 1994 and March 2008. Information on the presence of gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes were gathered and evaluated.
Previous research has shown that gestational diabetes is a risk factor for later development of type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that appears only during pregnancy and it typically develops in the third trimester.
Here’s what the researchers found:
* Gestational diabetes: 30,852 women
* Gestational hypertension: 27,605
* Preeclampsia: 22,933
* Both gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension: 2,100
* Both gestational diabetes and preeclampsia: 1,476
During the follow-up period, 35,077 women (3.5%) developed type 2 diabetes. Based on the presence of a pregnancy-related condition, the women’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes was as follows:
* 1.95 times greater in those with gestational hypertension only
* 2.08 times greater in those with preeclampsia only
* 12.77 times greater in those with gestational diabetes only
* 15.75 times greater in those with both gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
* 18.49 times greater in those with both gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension
More risk factors for type 2 diabetes in women
Women also face two more risk factors for type 2 diabetes that do not affect men. One is giving birth to an infant weighing more than 9 pounds.
Another risk factor unique for women is the presence of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Women who have this condition produce an abnormal amount of androgens (male hormones), which results in symptoms such as thinning hair on the scalp, acne, weight gain, facial hair, irregular periods, insulin resistance, and problems with fertility.
Both men and women should be aware of the factors that place them at risk for developing diabetes. However, women have special risk factors for type 2 diabetes, most of which are related to pregnancy.
* Feig DS et al. Preeclampsia as a risk factor for diabetes: a population-based cohort study. PLoS Medicine 2013 April. Doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001425
* Shalom G et al. Is preeclampsia a significant risk factor for long-term hospitalizations and morbidity? Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine 2012. Doi:10.3109/14767058.2012.718386