Gestational Diabetes Is a Risk Factor in Women's Heart Disease

Early warning signs of atherosclerosis and other heart diseases may be evident in women who develop gestational diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Gestational diabetes is an independent risk factor for heart diseases, according to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente monitored 898 women aged 18-30 for 20 years who later had one or more births. Participants were tested before and after their pregnancies for diabetes and metabolic conditions. At an average of 12 years after pregnancy, scientists also measured the thickness of the participants’ carotid artery to monitor for early signs of atherosclerosis.

Results showed a larger average carotid artery wall thickness in participants with a history of gestational diabetes or metabolic syndrome during the 20-year follow-up, when compared to those women who never experienced gestational diabetes. Racial differences showed black women had a higher unadjusted mean for common carotid intima media thickness than white women (47% of participants were black).

“Our research shows that just having a history of gestational diabetes elevates a woman’s risk of developing early atherosclerosis before she develops type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome,” Erica P. Gunderson, PhD, MPH, study lead author and senior research scientist in the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, said in a press release. “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.”