Diabetes and pregnancy may make for a deadly combination for women at risk of heart disease.
A long-term study recently concluded that women who develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancy may be at an increased risk of developing heart disease later on.
Gestational diabetes develops during a woman’s pregnancy but disappears after the pregnancy. However, it seems to increase a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later years.
Doctors have long known that women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life than women who do not develop the condition during pregnancy.
The new study results indicate that the women who get gestational diabetes, which ranges from two to 10 percent, may be at an increased risk for heart disease decades before women who do not develop gestational diabetes. These findings indicate that women who develop gestational diabetes have a potentially shortened lifespan.
The study, which was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, involved close to 900 healthy young women, who were studied for 20 years. Researchers found that women who had developed gestational diabetes had a higher chance of having thickened arteries on imaging tests by the time they were in their late 30s or early 40s. Thickened arteries are an early indication of heart disease.
On average, women tend to develop heart disease in their 60s, which is around 10 years after men. Female hormones often protect women as they go through menopause.
Erica Gunderson, study lead and senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, California, said, “We found evidence of early heart disease in those who had gestational diabetes even if they weren’t obese or didn’t have Type 2 diabetes.” She explained that these findings are the first indication that researchers have found that gestational diabetes is an independent risk factor for heart problems later on.
It is believed that gestational diabetes may lead to minute changes in hormonal systems, which could lead to heart disease later on.