How Gestational Diabetes Can Harm Mom’s Future Health

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ByKylie McConville
Mar 2017
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A new study, performed at the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California found that pregnant women with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of early heart disease later on.

The study, which took place over a 20-year time period, involved analysis of data from 898 women between the ages of 18 and 30. The data was taken from the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study. At 18, the researchers assessed a woman’s risk for heart disease before she was ever pregnant. Then, throughout the study, when the women had a delievered at least one baby, they were each periodically tested for diabetes and other metabolic conditions, including carotid artery wall thickness, which was tested 12 times after pregnancy.

Once the research had concluded, Erica P. Gunderson, who was the lead study author on the project, found that a history a gestational diabetes could be tied to a thicker carotid artery intima-media. 13 percent of the women studied (119 out of 898) had gestational diabetes during their pregnancies. Researchers noted that these women also had carotid artery intima-media thickness that was, on average, .023 milometers larger than women without gestational diabetes. At the end of the research, 13 women had suffered some type of cardiovascular event, one of them from the gestational diabetes group.

Gunderson said, “Our research shows that just having a history of gestational diabetes elevates a woman’s risk of developing early, sub-clinical atherosclerosis before she develops type 2 diabetes or the metabolic syndrome. Pregnancy has been under-recognized as an important time period that can signal a woman’s greater risk for future heart disease. This signal is revealed by gestational diabetes, a condition of elevated blood sugar during pregnancy.”

She added, “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. Gestational diabetes may be an early risk factor for heart disease in women.”

Do you think more preventative measures need to be taken for moms-to-be at risk of gestational diabetes?

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