Gestational diabetes linked to heart disease

Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy – which is called gestational diabetes – may have a more significant risk of early heart disease, according to recent research from the American Heart Association.

The 20-year study found that gestational diabetes could be linked to heart disease in middle age years, before the onset of metabolic diseases and conditions like diabetes.

Study shows gestational diabetes may be early risk factor

The study included 898 pregnant women who were between the ages of 18 and 30 and who had given birth at least once during the study period. During their pregnancies and throughout the study, the women were periodically tested for diabetes and metabolic conditions. Factors like age, body mass index, fasting blood glucose, insulin, lipids and blood pressure were all taken into consideration.

Over the course of the 20-year study, 13 percent of the women developed gestational diabetes. The women who didn't develop the condition were shown to have larger cartoid artery thickness – a measure that can predict cardiovascular risk. Furthermore, the difference in artery thickness between the two groups of women wasn't linked to obesity or elevated blood sugar levels before pregnancy.

"This finding indicates that a history of gestational diabetes may influence development of early atherosclerosis before the onset of diabetes and metabolic diseases that previously have been linked to heart disease," said Erica P. Gunderson, Ph.D., MS, MPH, study lead author and senior research scientist in the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, Calif. "Gestational diabetes may be an early risk factor for heart disease in women."

More research to be conducted

Gunderson plans to conduct more research on other risk factors associated with pregnancy and later-life disease. The concept of reproductive complications indicating future health problems is a fairly new area of study, she noted.

"Pregnancy has been under-recognized as an important time period that can signal a woman's greater risk for future heart disease," she said.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Source: American Heart Association

Photo credit: patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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