CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH: Gestational Diabetes
Updated: Mar 15
Happy Valentine’s Day! This month we are talking about heart health and cardiovascular disease awareness.
February is the shortest month in the year but it is a month full of celebrations. As a nation, we celebrate Black History month, Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day and President’s Day just to name a few.
As a pelvic health physical therapist, I can’t forget my fellow moms out there who are currently pregnant or birthed their bundle of joy already. There is so much information available regarding the correlation between cardiovascular disease and pregnancy. The most common one being coronary heart disease. This disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries of the heart and it is referred to as atherosclerosis and is the leading cause of death in women and men.
Pregnancy brings about various physical, psychological, and emotional changes with some being temporary and others are more long term. A common concern during pregnancy is gestational diabetes that can lead to long term impacts to health.
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which pregnant women’s bodies are unable to use insulin properly because of an increased hormone made by the placenta. The mother’s body also has difficulty absorbing glucose by cells and it begins to build up in the blood leading to high blood sugar known as hyperglycemia. Statistics show that every year , there are 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States, up to 20% worldwide that are affected by gestational diabetes. According to the CDC, about 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of having a large baby at 9 pounds or more, making childbirth more difficult, causing high blood pressure (preeclampsia), leading to early birth causing worsened breathing in the child, having children with low blood sugar, and having children who are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
There was a study done by a coronary artery risk development in young adults (CARDIA) that performed an analysis of over 1,000 women over a 30-year period. The study found that pregnant women with a history of gestational diabetes doubled the risk of heart calcification by mid-age, which is a significant marker of increased heart disease.
Another study conducted by American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: cardiovascular imaging, analyzed data among African American women showing that women with gestational diabetes were most likely to have an angiogram with the presence of coronary artery disease such as narrowing or obstruction of the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
Many believe that pregnant women who did not have diabetes prior to pregnancy or those whose blood sugar returned to normal after birth have lower risk of developing future cardiovascular diseases. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!
Pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes need to monitor their blood sugars, eat healthy foods, keep active with moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes per day, monitor their child’s growth and development, take insulin if needed, and get tested for diabetes after pregnancy.
In conclusion, if you are a current mom or a previous mom who has had gestational diabetes, it is good to maintain regular check ups for blood sugars, develop heart healthy habits, and continue conversations with your primary medical doctor to rule out pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
To the moms out there, don’t forget that you are important too! You are sure to take care of your family in the best way possible, but you must also take care of yourself. Be aware of your health. And take care of your heart.
At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!
Author: Dr. Mièka Bryan PT, DPT
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts