Mums with pregnancy-related diabetes need to eat more fruits, vegetables and fish to prevent them developing high blood pressure later in life, a study warned.

Women with gestational diabetes are at risk of developing high blood pressure nearly two decades later but a healthier diet could reduce the risk.

The study looked at the diets Alternative Healthy Eating Index, the alternative Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).

All three diets are high is fruits, vegetables, fish, legume and whole grains and are low in red meat, salt and processed meat.

Pregnancy-induced hypertension affects around 16 per cent of pregnancies in the UK and usually occurs later in pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes currently affects up to 18 in 100 women during pregnancy in the UK and occurs when blood glucose levels are so high that the body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all.

In most cases gestational diabetes develops during the second trimester of pregnancy and disappears after the baby is born.

However at its worst, it can increase the risk of health problems developing in an unborn baby.

Reseachers from by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US followed 3,818 women enrolled with Nurses’ Health Study II with a history of pregnancy-related diabetes over 22 years.

Of those 1,069 developed high blood pressure – meaning they had an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

But women who stuck to a healthy diet were a fifth – 20 per cent – less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who did not maintain a healthy diet.

Earlier research also showed that diabetes in pregnancy increased a woman’s risk of developing hypertension – even 16 years after giving birth

Senior investigator in epidemiology Dr Cuilin Zhang said: “Our earlier research showed that diabetes in pregnancy increased a woman’s risk of developing hypertension, even 16 years after giving birth.

“Our current study shows that a healthy diet, which has been proven to reduce high blood pressure risk in the general population, appears to be equally effective in reducing the risk in this group of high risk women.”

As part of the study participants completed a questionnaire about their diets every four years.

It found women with healthier diets were less likely to be smokers, more likely to only be moderate alcohol drinkers, ate more cereal fibre and exercised.

Increase in body mass index explained around 20 to 30 per cent of the association between lower healthy dietary pattern scores and increased risk of hypertension.

Lower weight gain also appeared to contribute to some of the reduced risk of developing high blood pressure in women on a healthy diet, though a healthy diet – regardless of weight gain or loss – still offered protection against high blood pressure.

Cuilin Zhang said: “While most women’s glucose levels will return to normal after delivery, our study should serve as an early warning signal.”

Pregnancy complications are usually treated by advising women to reduce calories, especially those that come from carbohydrates and increase their exercise.

The study was published in the journal Hypertension.

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