A healthy diet in the years after pregnancy could reduce drastically the risk of high blood pressure among women who had pregnancy-related (gestational) diabetes, according to a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH).
The researchers looked up to nearly 4,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) with a median of 18.5 years of follow-up and found that those who said they ate the healthiest had a lower risk of eventual hypertension than those with the lowest scores.
One of the senior authors of the study Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. stated that on earlier research showed that diabetes in pregnancy increased a woman’s risk of developing hypertension, even 16 years after giving birth.
The study was published on April 18 in the Hypertension journal of the American Heart Association; researchers found that women that were diagnosed with gestational diabetes were more likely to develop high blood pressure later on. But on the bright side, this risk can be lowered with a healthy diet.
How common is gestational diabetes?
Approximately about 5 percent of pregnant women in the United States can develop gestational diabetes, despite that they might not having diabetes before becoming pregnant. The condition results in high blood sugar levels, which can increase the risk of early labor and even a larger than average baby, which may result in problems during delivery.
For most women with this condition, the levels of sugar in the blood can return to normal after birth. However, later in life, women who had gestational diabetes are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, so the levels don’t return back to normal at all.
Might other diseases be involved?
Dr. Zhang has also said that the “high blood pressure affects about 30 percent of U.S. adults and increases the risk for heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Our study shows that a healthful diet is associated with decreased high blood pressure in an at-risk population”.
Other factors that were highly relevant to this study were that, even after they statistically accounted for smoking, family history, and other factors known to increase high blood pressure risk, the researchers also found that women who adhered to a healthy diet were 20 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not.
Source: National Institute of Health