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Diabetes during pregnancy linked to heart risk for women later in life

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Women with gestational diabetes – a form of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy and then typically disappears – may have an increased risk of developing heart disease later in life, Counsel and Heal reported.

In a 20-year study, researchers analyzed data from 898 women between the ages of 18 to 30. Before becoming pregnant, each woman was assessed in order to determine her risk of developing heart disease later in life.

Then, as the women began to have children, they were reassessed and tested for diabetes and other metabolic conditions. An average of 12 years after giving birth, the thickness of each woman’s carotid artery wall was also measured.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, revealed that women with a history of gestational diabetes went on to develop thicker carotid arteries, compared to women who never had gestational diabetes.

"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," said study author Erica P. Gunderson, a senior research scientist in the division of research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, Calif. "Gestational diabetes may be an early risk factor for heart disease in women."

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