Healthy lifestyle reduces cardiovascular risk after gestational diabetes, study shows

October 16, 2017, National Institutes of Health

A history of gestational diabetes was associated with a modest higher long-term risk of cardiovascular disease in women in a new study, although the absolute rate of cardiovascular disease was low in the study's younger group of predominantly white women and adhering to a healthy lifestyle over time appeared to help mitigate the risk, according to a new article published by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Gestational diabetes is impaired glucose tolerance in pregnancy. The American Heart Association identifies gestational diabetes as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in women based on evidence for the relationship between gestational diabetes and markers of cardiometabolic risk, according to study background.

Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, and coauthors prospectively examined a history of gestational diabetes and risk of major cardiovascular disease events, including heart attack and stroke, in the Nurses' Health Study II, an ongoing study cohort that began in 1989 by enrolling more than 116,000 female nurses between the ages of 24 and 44. A history of gestational diabetes was captured on the baseline questionnaire and updated every two years through 2001; the primary study outcome of interest was a composite of nonfatal and fatal heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke occurring from baseline through the 2013 questionnaire.

There were nearly 90,000 childbearing women eligible to be included in the analysis for the current study and almost 5,300 women (5.9 percent) reported a history of gestational diabetes. New primary cardiovascular disease events occurred in 1,161 childbearing women during almost 26 years of follow-up, including 612 heart attacks and 553 strokes, the authors report.

While a modestly higher risk of cardiovascular disease was associated with a history of gestational diabetes compared to women without, the absolute risk difference was low likely because of the younger age of the study group and the modestly elevated risk appeared to be mitigated by adhering to a healthy lifestyle (for example, a healthful diet, physical activity, not smoking and not being overweight or obese) in subsequent years.

Limitations of the study include a racially/ethnically homogenous study population that precludes addressing the relationship between gestational diabetes and cardiovascular disease in potentially higher-risk minority populations, according to the authors.

"Future data with continuous follow-up of these women are warranted to evaluate longer-term health implications of GD [gestational diabetes] history," the article concludes.

Explore further: Pregnancy diet high in refined grains could increase kids' obesity by age 7

More information: Tobias, DK, et al. Association of history of gestational diabetes with long-term cardiovascular disease risk in a Large Prospective Cohort of US Women. JAMA Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.2790

Related Stories

Pregnancy diet high in refined grains could increase kids' obesity by age 7

June 7, 2017
Children born to women with gestational diabetes whose diet included high proportions of refined grains may have a higher risk of obesity by age 7, compared to children born to women with gestational diabetes who ate low ...

Healthy diet could decrease gestational diabetes risk for South Asian women

August 10, 2017
South Asian women in Ontario are at high risk for gestational diabetes, but a change in diet and pre-pregnancy weight could make a significant difference, according to a new study from McMaster University.

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 ...

Pre-pregnancy potato consumption may be linked to gestational diabetes risk

January 12, 2016
Women who eat more potatoes before pregnancy may have higher rates of gestational diabetes—the form that occurs during pregnancy—compared to women who consume fewer potatoes, suggests a National Institutes of Health (NIH) ...

Women's risk of heart disease after gestational diabetes differs by race

June 6, 2011
New research finds that gestational diabetes, or pregnancy-related diabetes, may not raise the risk of heart disease independent of other cardiovascular risk factors except in certain high-risk populations, such as Hispanics. ...

Early periods associated with risk of gestational diabetes

March 6, 2017
The age at which girls start menstruating could flag a later risk of diabetes during pregnancy, according to a University of Queensland study

Recommended for you

'Alarming' diabetes epidemic in Guatemala tied to aging, not obesity

August 14, 2018
The diabetes epidemic in Guatemala is worse than previously thought: more than 25 percent of its indigenous people, who make up 60 percent of the population, suffer from type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, suggests a new study ...

Gut reaction linked to type 1 diabetes

August 13, 2018
Understanding the link between diabetes and the gut could lead to the development of new therapies to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes, according to University of Queensland researchers.

Early age of type 1 diabetes diagnosis linked to shorter life expectancy, compared to later diagnosis

August 10, 2018
Life-expectancy for individuals with younger-onset disease is on average 16 years shorter compared to people without diabetes, and 10 years shorter for those diagnosed at an older age

Red blood cells cause cardiovascular injury in type 2 diabetes

August 7, 2018
Harmful effects of substances secreted from red blood cells could explain the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases in patients with type 2 diabetes, the results of two new studies conducted at Karolinska Institutet in ...

Diabetes in bay area Chinese population linked to fat fibrosis

August 6, 2018
A new UC San Francisco study has discovered a key biological difference in how people of European and Chinese descent put on weight—a finding that could help explain why Asians often develop type 2 diabetes at a much lower ...

Why weight loss produces remission of type 2 diabetes in some patients

August 2, 2018
A clinical trial recently showed that nearly half of individuals with type 2 diabetes achieved remission to a non-diabetic state after a weight-loss intervention delivered within 6 years of diagnosis. Now a study published ...

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.