Diabetes, Hypertension in Pregnancy Can Raise Heart Disease Risk, say Pittsburgh Researchers

June 2003 Women who have pregnancy-related high blood pressure conditions or diabetes can develop heart disease risk factors as soon as two years after giving birth, according to a University of Pittsburgh study presented at the American Diabetes Association's 63rd Scientific Sessions June 13-17 in New Orleans.

"Our study points to the importance of monitoring pregnant women for new-onset diabetes, preeclampsia and hypertension, because these conditions can leave these women with insulin resistance or continued high blood pressure after delivery, putting them at risk for cardiovascular disease," said Zsolt Bosnyak, M.D., who led the study while a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. He is now with the National Centre for Diabetes Care in Budapest, Hungary.

The study looked at the health status, one to three years post-delivery, in 36 women who had preeclampsia while pregnant, 33 women with hypertension (high blood pressure) while pregnant, 24 with diabetes while pregnant, and 31 controls.

Preeclampsia is a condition in which high blood pressure is accompanied by protein in the urine, usually albumin.

Those women with preeclampsia or gestational diabetes had a four- to six-fold chance of being insulin resistant one to three years after delivery. Insulin resistance is a condition in which insulin is not used efficiently by the body. It often leads to diabetes, and a recent University of Pittsburgh study has linked it to heart disease in people with diabetes.

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Those with gestational diabetes had higher glucose post-delivery (100 mg/dL vs. 87 mg/dL) than the control group, and they were 12.5 percent more likely to have high blood pressure after delivery. Women with preeclampsia or hypertension were 25 percent more likely than the control group to have high blood pressure after delivery.

"Diabetes, preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy should be viewed as potential markers for an increase in heart disease risk factors after delivery. Pregnant women who have one or more of these conditions, and women who have had them while they were pregnant, should modify their lifestyles to reduce risk," said co-investigator Trevor Orchard, M.D., professor of epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. "Stop smoking and drinking; exercise; eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains; cut back on fatty foods. These are simple steps that can greatly improve health and reduce risk of heart disease."

Established in 1948, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health is world-renowned for contributions that have influenced public health practices and medical care for millions of people. It is the only fully accredited school of public health in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States. It is one of 14 schools across the country to be designated a Public Health Training Center by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Source: University of Pittsburgh