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Study: Women With Gestational Diabetes Linked to Heart Disease Later in Life

woman-holding-her-pregnant-bellyIf a woman has a history of gestational diabetes, then her risk of developing early atherosclerosis increases, even if she doesn’t develop diabetes after the pregnancy according to a study published in Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, Calif., followed 900 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 30 for 20 years. The women were tested for metabolic diseases, including diabetes, before and after their pregnancy. Those who self-reported having gestational diabetes were more likely to have thickened arteries on their imaging test — a sign the researchers say points to early heart disease.

Women typically develop heart disease in their 60s, thanks in part to hormones that protect them until menopause.

“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,” lead author Erica Gunderson, a senior research scientist with Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research, said in a statement. “Gestational diabetes may be an early risk factor for heart disease in women.”

This factor is also independent of obesity or other risk factors for heart disease.

Scientists are unsure of the cause of the relationship, but right now there is no recommendation to test women with a history of gestation diabetes for thickened arteries. But Gunderson does mention that at-risk women should monitor their hearts more closely with their healthcare providers.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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