Women with a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) are at a higher risk of developing calcium in heart arteries which may develop into full-blown heart disease. This condition can occur even if the woman had normal blood sugar levels after pregnancy. According to recent research published in the Circulation, this is a flagship journal of the American Heart Association.
Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that manifests during pregnancy. In the US, around 9% of pregnancies cause gestational diabetes. Around the world, 20% of pregnant women have this type of diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes have higher chances of developing prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
Initially, studies confirmed that women with gestational diabetes who developed into Type 2 diabetes were at higher risk of developing heart disease. However, scientists had not confirmed the risk of heart disease in women who attain normal sugar levels after birth. A study released by the American Heart Association Cholesterol Clinical Practice Guidelines and the American College of Cardiology showed that women with gestational diabetes were at higher risks of contracting cardiovascular disease.
In the study, scientists used data from a multicenter, 30-year prospective Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adult (CARDIA) to investigate if normal sugar levels in blood helped reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
More than 5,100 men and women aged between 18 and 30 years in the US participated in the CARDIA study, which started in 1985. The study included 1,100 women, comprised of 51% white women and 49% blacks. These women had no Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes at the time of enrollment and gave birth at least once during the study period. The study ended in 2011.
Researchers conducted tests before, during, and after pregnancies at five-year intervals. These studies were conducted to determine if the women had attained normal blood sugar levels. The tests also determined if there were any spikes in blood sugar levels after pregnancy.
Researchers also conducted scans to determine the level of calcium in the coronary artery. An increase in calcium in the arteries is an indication of possible heart disease.
From the study, researchers confirmed that women with a history of gestational diabetes were at double risk of coronary artery calcification regardless if they had normal blood sugar levels.