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This article originally posted and appeared in  Women's HealthPreventionPhysical ActivityIssue 730

Women with GDM Can Reduce T2DM Risk Dramatically with Exercise

Among women who had gestational diabetes, those who upped their exercise by a little more than 20 minutes a day after giving birth had half the longer-term diabetes risk of women who didn't change their activity levels....

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Dr. Cuilin Zhang, lead study author from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, Maryland, said that this means that women with gestational diabetes do not have to become diabetic later in life.

Women, especially those who are older, heavier and not white, are at risk of developing gestational diabetes, because of changes in the body during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes affects between 2 percent and 10 percent of U.S. pregnancies.
If blood sugar isn't controlled during pregnancy, gestational diabetes puts babies at risk of being born earlier and heavier than normal. It also puts women at increased risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia, another serious pregnancy complication. Although gestational diabetes may disappear after childbirth, a woman who has had it is at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially within the next five years.
For the new study, the researchers used 16 years' worth of data on 4,554 adult women who had a history of gestational diabetes. By the end of the study period, 635 had developed type 2 diabetes. Based on behaviors like exercise and time spent watching television, the researchers calculated the women's risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Among the one-fifth of women who exercised the least, about 19 percent developed diabetes later on, compared to about 9 percent among the one-fifth who exercised the most. The researchers found that a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes fell by about 9 percent for every additional 100 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise added per week. Overall, women who increased their exercise by 150 minutes a week had just 53 percent of the diabetes risk of women who didn't change their activity levels after pregnancy.
Watching television, in contrast, was tied to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women who watched 11 to 20 hours of TV a week had 1.4 times the diabetes risk of women who watched 0 to 5 hours a week.
Those results don't mean that watching television is the problem, the researchers said. Instead, it's more likely that people who watch a lot of television are generally less healthy than those who don't.
Practice Pearls:

  • Exercising for 20 minutes a day after giving birth had half the longer-term diabetes risk of women who didn't change their activity levels.
  • A woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes fell by about 9 percent for every additional 100 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise added per week.
  • Women who watched 11 to 20 hours of TV a week had 1.4 times the diabetes risk of women who watched 0 to 5 hours a week.

JAMA Internal Medicine, online May 19, 2014. 

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This article originally posted 23 May, 2014 and appeared in  Women's HealthPreventionPhysical ActivityIssue 730

Past five issues: Issue 796 | Diabetes Clinical Mastery Series Issue 255 | Issue 795 | SGLT-2 Inhibitors Special Edition August 2015 | Diabetes Clinical Mastery Series Issue 254 |

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