Researchers now believe that women who have gestational diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease later on. This according to a new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The Kaiser Permanente study looked at 898 women over a 20-year period. Researchers assessed risk factors for heart disease. They found that simply having gestational diabetes leads to an increased risk factor of heart disease even if the patient did not experience other health problems like type-2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of five health issues that predict a patient’s chance of developing type-2 diabetes.
According to US-News gestational diabetes affects approximately 18 percent of pregnant women. Some of the risk factors include, being overweight or obese, having a history of gestational diabetes or prediabetes, being over 25 years of age, having a family history of diabetes, and women who are African-American, Asian, or Native American. While most doctors offices routinely check for diabetes around 24 weeks not all do. Women who develop gestational diabetes usually see it end after the pregnancy ends. The American Diabetes Association recommends women who are at a high risk for developing gestational diabetes be tested at their first prenatal checkup.
Dr. Erica P. Gunderson, the lead researcher and writer on the new study said that simply having a history of gestational diabetes led to an increased risk of developing early atherosclerosis a form of heart disease. During the study researchers used ultra-sound technology to look at a patients carotid artery, the carotid artery circulates blood to the neck and face. By using the ultra-sound technology researchers were able to determine the likelihood that a woman would have a heart attack or stroke later on.
Women who had gestational diabetes were found to have larger than average carotid artery thickness compared to women who did not have gestational diabetes, furthermore, researchers found that obesity did not play a significant role, and neither did other risk factors commonly associated with heart disease. Gunderson went on to say that early detection and understanding the risk factors will help doctors and patients with early preventative measures.
Researchers and doctors hope that by understanding these health issues women can work toward more preventative care. Research into gestational diabetes, early testing, and preventative care can help with healthier pregnancies. Understanding the role that gestational diabetes plays in a woman’s long-term health can also help in preventing health issues in the future. Each of the women in the study gave birth to at least one child and had their arteries tested in 2005 and 2006.
The study builds on earlier research from Kaiser Permanente -one of the nations largest health care providers- where they found that gestational diabetes, and obesity prior to getting pregnant, are risk factors in older women who have delayed lactation. Through researcher Kaiser Permanente is hoping to develop a better understanding of gestational diabetes. While it was already known that type-2 diabetes leads to developing heart disease later in life it was not known until recently whether gestational diabetes was an increased risk factor.
By Rachel Woodruff