The risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke in those who develop gestational diabetes can be significantly lowered by following a healthy lifestyle, according to researchers.
A study looking at the medical history of nearly 90,000 women found it is possible to counteract cardiovascular disease (CVD) by adopting a better diet, exercising, controlling body weight and not smoking.
The trial findings suggested the women who received a gestational diagnosis had a 43 per cent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease if they did not eat healthily or exercise in the years following their pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes after birth if lifestyle interventions are not carried out. The study also showed that even those that do not go on to develop type 2 diabetes had a 20 per cent higher chance of suffering from heart problems. This is because insulin resistance can raise the risk of heart disease even if type 2 diabetes does not develop.
The researchers wrote: “Identifying women at high CVD risk several years prior to an event may provide individuals and healthcare professionals the opportunity to intervene with preventive therapy and lifestyle modifications.”
Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, researchers excluded any women with cancer, type 1 diabetes or CVD prior to their first pregnancy. Questionnaires were then issued to the women in a bid to assess their health and lifestyle.
Of the 89,479 women, a total of 5,292 stated they had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during at least one pregnancy and 1,161 suffered some sort of cardiovascular issue in later life.
The researchers concluded: “Collectively, the findings support the role of lifestyle for the prevention of CVD among high-risk women with a history of GD. Future data with continuous follow-up of these women are warranted to evaluate longer-term health implications of GD history.”
The findings have been published in the JAMA journal.

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