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Healthy Lifestyle Reduces Heart Attack, Stroke Risk After Gestational Diabetes

October 23, 2017


Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes, or high blood sugar, that occurs only during pregnancy. Although it often disappears after birth, many women who had the condition later develop type 2 diabetes, usually by middle age. Some studies have shown women who had gestational diabetes are also at risk for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressurehigh blood cholesterolhardening of the arteriesheart attack and stroke.

According to an article published online in JAMA Internal Medicine (October 16, 2017), women who have had gestational diabetes may be able to reduce or even eliminate their risk for cardiovascular disease by following a healthy lifestyle in the years after giving birth. For the study, data were analyzed from the Nurses' Health Study II (NHS II), following health habits and medical history of more than 90,000 women from before pregnancy through middle age and the early senior years. NHS II is an observational cohort study of US female nurses established in 1989, with ongoing follow-up. Biennial questionnaires updated behavioral characteristics, health outcomes, and lifestyle factors. Those included in the analysis reported at least 1 pregnancy and were free of CVD and cancer at baseline. Follow-up through May 31, 2015, was complete for more than 90% of eligible participants. The study confirmed the links between gestational diabetes and cardiovascular disease found by other studies. It also provides some of the strongest evidence to date that cardiovascular disease after gestational diabetes isn't inevitable for women who adopt a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise moderately and do not smoke. Results showed that women who failed to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the wake of gestational diabetes had a 43%-higher risk for cardiovascular disease, particularly heart attack and stroke.

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