Eating well after gestational diabetes cuts risk of high blood pressure
20 April 2016
Women with gestational diabetes (diabetes developing during pregnancy) are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure later in life, but they can significantly reduce that risk by following a healthy diet.
A 22-year study of almost 4000 women with a history of gestational diabetes finds those who continually follow good nutrition are 20% less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who eat poorly.
The findings highlight the role of diet in the progression of high blood pressure (hypertension) among susceptible individuals.
"Our earlier research showed that diabetes in pregnancy increased a woman's risk of developing hypertension, even 16 years after giving birth," says lead author, Dr Cuilin Zhang, an epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health in the US.
"Our current study shows that a healthy diet, which has been proven to reduce high blood pressure risk in the general population, appears to be equally effective in reducing the risk in this group of high risk women."
The researchers documented 1069 cases of high blood pressure during a median of 18.5 years of follow-up. After adjustment for major risk factors for hypertension, including BMI, a healthy eating pattern was related to a lower subsequent risk of developing hypertension.
Lower weight gain appeared to contribute to some of the reduced risk of developing hypertension in women who ate well, but a healthy diet, regardless of weight gain or loss, still offered protection against hypertension, says Dr Zhang.
Writing in the journal Hypertension, the researchers note that an increase in BMI explained around 20-30% of the association between poor eating habits and increased risk of hypertension.
"While the majority of these women's glucose levels will return to normal after delivery, our study should serve as an early warning signal," she says.
The researchers identified 3 healthy diets for the study: the Mediterranean diet, the Alternative Healthy Eating Index and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).