Healthy diet may reduce high blood pressure risk in pregnancy-related diabetes

April 18, 2016, American Heart Association

Women with pregnancy-related diabetes (gestational diabetes) are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure later in life; however, a healthy diet may significantly reduce that risk, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension.

Researchers studied 3,818 women with a history of pregnancy-related diabetes enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II as a part of the ongoing Diabetes and Women's Health Study. Over 22 years of follow-up, 1,069 women developed , which in turn increased their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers found:

  • Women who continually adhered to a healthy diet were 20 percent less likely to develop high compared to those who did not maintain a healthy diet.
  • Increase in body mass index explained around 20-30 percent of the association between lower healthy dietary pattern scores and increased risk of hypertension.

"Our earlier research showed that diabetes in pregnancy increased a woman's risk of developing hypertension, even 16 years after giving birth," said Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., senior study author and senior investigator at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Rockville, Maryland. "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."

Study participants completed a questionnaire about their diets every four years. Researchers matched responses to three healthy diets: the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, the alternative Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). The three diets share important similarities: eating fruits and vegetables, fish, legumes and whole grains while reducing red meat, salt and processed meat.

Study results were adjusted for many factors that could bias results, including smoking, level of physical activity, race/ethnicity, oral contraceptive use, family history of high blood pressure and weight. Women with a greater adherence to a healthy diet were less likely to be current smokers and more likely to be moderate alcohol drinkers, eat more cereal fiber, be more physically active and less likely to consume trans-fat.

Lower weight gain appeared to contribute to some of the reduced risk of developing high blood pressure in women on a healthy diet, but a , regardless of weight gain or loss, still offered protection against high blood pressure.

"While the majority of these women's glucose levels will return to normal after delivery, our study should serve as an early warning signal," Zhang said, adding that the pregnancy complication is usually treated by advising women to reduce calories, particularly those that come from carbohydrates, and increase exercise. Physicians and other healthcare providers should also encourage these mothers to continue these healthy practices after delivery.

The Nurses' Health Study II began in 1989 with funding from the National Institutes of Health. Study limitations include participants who are mainly white and educated. Dr. Shanshan Li, the first co-author, said future studies need to examine the association between , diet and hypertension in minority populations such as Hispanic and African American women, who are at greater risk for high blood pressure.

Explore further: Yogurt may protect women from developing high blood pressure

Related Stories

Yogurt may protect women from developing high blood pressure

March 3, 2016
Women who ate five or more servings of yogurt per week had a lower risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those who rarely ate yogurt, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology/Lifestyle ...

Hypertensive disorders during pregnancy increase risk for high blood pressure after delivery

January 28, 2016
Women who are diagnosed with hypertensive disorders while pregnant are more than twice as likely to develop high blood pressure in the first year after delivery as women who did not have any pregnancy-related hypertension, ...

Pregnant women with hypertension and their siblings face increased risk of heart disease

August 27, 2015
High blood pressure during pregnancy is a risk factor for future hypertension and cardiovascular disease, but it's not clear if this increased risk is because these women are more likely to have a family history of heart ...

High blood pressure during pregnancy may signal later heart disease risk

February 11, 2013
even once or twice during routine medical care—can signal substantially higher risks of heart and kidney disease and diabetes, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Early puberty associated with gestational diabetes

January 26, 2016
Women who began having menstrual cycles at a younger age are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, a disease affecting up to 7 percent of pregnant women that can cause babies to develop type 2 diabetes and other ...

For women with gestational diabetes, study shows reduced risk of type 2 diabetes solely through dietary modification

October 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—By sticking to a healthy diet in the years after pregnancy, women who develop diabetes during pregnancy can greatly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a study supported by the National Institutes ...

Recommended for you

As body mass index increases, blood pressure may as well

August 17, 2018
Body mass index is positively associated with blood pressure, according to the ongoing study of 1.7 million Chinese men and women being conducted by researchers at the Yale Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE) ...

Gout could increase heart disease risk

August 17, 2018
Having a type of inflammatory arthritis called gout may worsen heart-related outcomes for people being treated for coronary artery disease, according to new research.

Stroke patients treated at a teaching hospital are less likely to be readmitted

August 17, 2018
Stroke patients appear to receive better care at teaching hospitals with less of a chance of landing back in a hospital during the early stages of recovery, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science ...

Cardiovascular disease related to type 2 diabetes can be reduced significantly

August 16, 2018
Properly composed treatment and refraining from cigarette consumption can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease resulting from type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the New England Journal of ...

Genomic autopsy can help solve unexplained cardiac death

August 15, 2018
Molecular autopsies can reveal genetic risk factors in young people who unexpectedly die, but proper interpretation of the results can be challenging, according to a recent study published in Circulation.

Neonatal pig hearts can heal from heart attack

August 15, 2018
While pigs still cannot fly, researchers have discovered that the hearts of newborn piglets do have one remarkable ability. They can almost completely heal themselves after experimental heart attacks.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.