Researchers discover way to curb heart function loss in diabetes patients

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Type 2 diabetes represents 90 per cent of all diabetes cases and researchers say high-intensity exercise could restore heart function in these patients. Source: Pexels

Most people with type 2 diabetes know that healthy eating and regular exercise are two of the main ways to manage the condition, but it turns out getting physical could be doing much more for the health of these patients than originally thought.

Type 2 diabetes develops over a period of years as the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin. It also loses the ability to produce enough insulin in the pancreas and is a known risk factor for heart disease.

Researchers from the University of Otago now believe high-intensity exercise can reduce and reverse the loss of heart function caused by type 2 diabetes. High-intensity physical exercise usually involves short intervals of near maximal effort exercise such as sprinting or stair climbing, separated by intervals of moderate intensity exercise such as jogging or fast walking.

Research published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal showed that three months of high-intensity training improved heart function in adults with type 2 diabetes – without any changes to medication or diet.

While there’s plenty of research to show that controlling blood sugar levels and changing lifestyle factors can improve health outcomes for people with type 2 diabetes, few studies have analysed the role these factors play when it comes to lowering cardiovascular disease.

Common types of cardiovascular disease such as coronary artery disease, cardiac arrest, stroke and heart failure are among the leading causes of death for patients with type 2 diabetes.

“Our research has found that exercise at sufficiently high intensity may provide an inexpensive, practical way to reverse, or reduce the loss in heart function caused by type 2 diabetes,” study author Genevieve Wilson said in a statement.

Participants in the study spent 10 minutes doing vigorous activity in a 25-minute exercise period. Researchers say that increasing aerobic capacity through exercise is the best prevention for heart disease and that it also plays a role in in managing diabetes.

The challenge for many with type 2 diabetes is that their hearts are already impacted by condition and it can be difficult to exercise effectively — especially at increased levels as the study suggests. Despite this, researchers noted more than 80 per cent of middle-aged adults attended the exercise sessions over three months and that they are safe and acceptable for people with type 2 diabetes.

Still, it’s always important to discuss the best exercise plans with health professionals as individual circumstances do vary and what works for one person with type 2 diabetes may not be the best advice for others. Seek medical advice before undertaking any new exercises or treatments.

The latest research follows a study released earlier this week by researchers from the Queen Mary University of London and the University of Glasgow which showed a link between type 2 diabetes and life-threatening non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Those researchers say type 2 patients need to be better monitored to ensure any signs of the disease are picked up early on.

How do you manage your type 2 diabetes? Do you find that exercise and physical activity work?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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