Congenital heart disease is the condition of abnormality in the heart structure. It is often happening because of genetics, babies who have a family history of the same are more likely to have this condition when they are born. Here is the new development that states that babies born to mothers who have had high level of gestational diabetes are also likely to have a variety of this heart disease- non-congenital heart disease.
Diabetes in pregnancy or the gestational diabetes is widely seen in women. There are lows and highs for the sugar level in them. Gestational diabetes is also known to cause a few diseases like type 2 diabetes, premature birth, and low blood sugar level in the babies. Prolonged exposure to the high blood sugar from the mother affects the baby in different ways. Adding to this list is now non-congenital heart disease.
Diabetes In Pregnancy And Baby’s Heart
Scientists have recently found that the high and very high level of blood sugar in mothers can badly affect the development of the baby’s heart. The high blood sugar level prevents the heart cells in babies from attaining maturity. Instead of maturing, the baby’s heart cells would only reproduce.
The reason behind this is that the constant presence of sugar makes the cells to produce more of the nucleotides- the building blocks of DNA inside the cells. Because of these nucleotides in more number than necessary, these cells keep on reproducing and does not reach the maturity level as needed. This leads to an underdeveloped heart that cannot function normally.
Diabetes Differs Depending On The Severity
It all depends on the severity of diabetes suffered by the mother. According to the sugar level, the heart problem could be that it has weakly developed heart muscles or to the worst case of deformed heart that requires surgery.
It is also found that the babies born to mothers who have diabetes during pregnancy have 2-5 times more chances of getting these kinds of heart problems than other babies.
Studies On The Stem Cells Revealed These Findings
Studies done on the stem cells reveal that a slight hike in the glucose levels had the least effect on the heart muscle cell development or maturity. The difference was seen in the cells that were exposed to more glucose. Those cells either failed to mature or did not develop altogether. It also kept on producing more of the immature cells as well.
They find that a particular cellular process called the pentose sugar pathway that leads to these conditions. They also say that only something that can target this pathway could make a change and lead to the development of mature heart muscle cells.
Diabetes During Pregnancy Depends On The Mother
The woman’s age, family history, and body weight also play its role in developing gestational diabetes.
- Women who are above the age of 30 are more at risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy.
- Women who are overweight with a BMI of over 30 are also at the risk
- As in the case of many other health conditions, the family history also play a role in gestational diabetes
Gestational Diabetes Is Controllable
Though there are many things that are not in our control during pregnancy you can get some control over the blood sugar level. There are several ways to regulate the blood sugar and prevent it from going too high.
- Exercises: Keep up with the doctor recommended exercises during pregnancy. It not only keeps you fit or make easier for childbirth but also helps spend some energy. The energy production comes from the excess blood sugar that will reduce the glucose level. Stick to light cardio exercises. Spend at least half an hour for the exercises per day. You can repeat it 4-5 times in a week.
- Eat less sugar: if possible stay on a sugar-free diet. You can replace the sugar with honey or dates syrup. Dates syrup adds to the iron requirement as well. Eliminating sugar should be the first step to control the excess blood sugar level. You could also use stevia as it is natural. It is better to stick to the complex sugars that does not instantly raise the blood sugar and keep it controlled.
- Mind the carbohydrates: Carbohydrates would also contribute to the blood sugar hike. You need to choose superfoods like sweet potatoes to have complex carbohydrates that have low glycemic index. These foods would digest slow and release the sugars very slowly into the blood. This helps in the regulation of the glucose level. The complex carbohydrates are seen in sweet potatoes, green vegetables, whole grains, pumpkin, beans, green peas, lentils etc.
- Carbs protein pair: Pairing carbohydrates with protein can help in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Protein can help the breakdown and make them useful for energy. This can also ease the digestion. Use legumes to get the best results as they are high in protein and contain a good amount of fiber.
- Vitamin C deficiency could lead to gestational diabetes. Having vitamin C rich foods help fulfill this vitamin needs. Include lemons, oranges, grapefruits, kiwi, sweet bell pepper, strawberries, spinach, broccoli etc in the diet as they have a good amount of vitamin C. if you are to rely on supplements, get the doctor’s advice beforehand.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is an excellent way to regulate blood sugar level. You can have an occasional cup of cinnamon tea to help ease the blood glucose levels. Just boil a cup of water with a cinnamon stick. Let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain and drink this mix. You can also add honey for sweetness. DO NOT take it daily without asking your dietician and doctor as an overdose of cinnamon could cause contractions.
Not every baby born to a mother with diabetes during pregnancy might have heart disease. They only have more chances of getting the disease than other babies. Gestational diabetes is one of the possible ways of getting non-congenital heart disease. Diabetes in mothers is added to the list of causes for this heart disease. There is only one way to prevent it, having the blood sugar under control. It will protect the baby from developing some serious diseases and also keep the mother healthy even after childbirth.