Even if you have kicked smoking to the curb and majorly upped your veggie intake, there’s another factor that can seriously increase your risk of heart disease: Having gestational diabetes (GDM) during pregnancy. That causes the chance of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the years after childbirth to double, compared to women who didn’t have GDM, according to new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for Study of Diabetes).
Even if women who had GDM don’t develop full blown type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, the increased heart disease risk doesn’t change. However, those who had GDM are seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The research examined nine studies, which were all published in the last six years, and provided data on 5,390,591 women and 101,424 cardiovascular events. Analysis showed that the rates of type 2 diabetes didn’t affect the increased risk of heart disease—regardless, GDM was linked to a 56% higher risk of future cardiovascular events, and a 2.3 times higher risk in the first decade after delivery.
The study authors noted that the increased heart disease risk was consistent across a range of different populations, including the US, Canada, UK, France, Israel and Sweden. The researchers also believe that since the higher risk of heart disease for those who had GDM isn’t reliant on type 2 diabetes, there are other risk factors that may be linked, including higher levels of blood fats, increased inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and higher levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Each of those were present in women who had GDM as early as three months after delivery, leading them to believe that this is part of the increased risk profile.
“Taken together, these data support the emerging concept that women who develop GDM actually have a chronic metabolic disorder that comes to clinical attention during gestation, although it exists before, during and after the pregnancy,” the study authors said in a statement. If it weren’t for the GDM diagnosis, these women could slip through the cracks when it comes to being aware of their higher heart disease risk. “The diagnosis of GDM should be recognized as providing a unique window into a woman ‘s future risk of CVD, and hence an opportunity for early risk modification and possibly prevention of what remains a leading cause of mortality in women worldwide in 2019.”