In a study from the National University of Singapore, scientists found that women with a history of diabetes in pregnancy can still reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as eating healthy, stopping smoking, exercising regularly, and not being overweight.
They found that women who adhered to five key lifestyle factors—healthy weight, high-quality diet, regular physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption, and not smoking—had a 90% lower risk of the disorder compared with women who did not adhere to any, even among those who were overweight or obese, or were at greater genetic risk of type 2 diabetes.
It’s widely known that a healthy lifestyle is linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in generally healthy middle-aged populations.
But less is known about whether this also applies to high-risk women with a history of diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes), and if obesity status or genetic risk of type 2 diabetes influence this association.
In the study, the team evaluated the associations of adherence to optimal levels of five modifiable risk factors—healthy body mass index, high-quality diet, regular physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption, and not smoking, with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among these women at high risk.
They examined 4,275 women with a history of gestational diabetes from the Nurses’ Health Study II with repeated measurements of weight and lifestyle factors over 28 years of follow-up.
The researchers found that participants who had optimal levels of all five modifiable factors after the index pregnancy had a more than 90% lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who did not have any.
Each additional optimal modifiable factor was associated with an incrementally lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
And these beneficial associations were consistently seen, even among women who were overweight or obese or who had a higher genetic susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.
The team says the use of data from a large study with repeated measurements of health-related and behavioral risk factors, helps to better capture long-term lifestyle habits and reduce measurement error and misclassification.
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The study was conducted by Jiaxi Yang et al and published in The BMJ.
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