Healthy Diet May Reduce Hypertension Risk After Gestational Diabetes
Approximately 5% of pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes, despite not having diabetes before becoming pregnant. The condition results in high blood sugar levels, which can increase the risk of early labor and a larger than average baby, which may result in problems during delivery. For most women with gestational diabetes, blood sugar levels 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.
According to a study published online in Hypertension (19 April 2016), it was concluded that sticking to a healthy diet in the years after pregnancy may reduce the risk of high blood pressure among women who had gestational diabetes. In fact, a healthy diet was associated with lower risk for high blood pressure even in obese women. Obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure.
The current study is the first to show that adopting a healthy diet — known to reduce high blood pressure risk among the general population — also reduces the risk among women with prior gestational diabetes. In an earlier study, it was reported that a healthy diet after gestational diabetes reduces the risk for Type 2 diabetes.
The study analyzed the health histories of nearly 4,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II, part of the Diabetes & Women’s Health study. Every four years, study participants responded to questionnaires on their eating habits. When appropriate, the women’s responses were categorized according to three healthy dietary approaches: the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, Mediterranean-style Diet, and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). These approaches emphasize consumption of nuts, legumes, whole grains and fish, and limit consumption of red and processed meats, salt, and added sugars.
After they statistically accounted for smoking, family history, and other factors known to increase high blood pressure risk, the study found that women who adhered to a healthy diet were 20% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not. The authors stated that as is well-known that high blood pressure affects about 30% of U.S. adults and increases the risk for heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke, the present study shows that a healthful diet is associated with decreased high blood pressure in an at-risk population.