Type 2 diabetes and its often-associated high blood pressure present a double-whammy to the heart, causing abnormalities in the organ's structure and function, and damage to blood vessels throughout the body. Now a Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist suggests that exercise, mainly aerobic activity and weight training, may provide multiple solutions to these heart problems.
Writing in the Oct. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., director of clinical exercise physiology at Hopkins, says that regular aerobic and weight-lifting activities not only control blood sugar and lower blood pressure, but also provide cardiovascular benefits. As an added bonus, exercise training reduces total and abdominal fat, both of which lead to improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and blood vessel function.
Because Type 2 diabetes can double or quadruple the risk of cardiovascular disease, most diabetic patients die of heart-related complications, including coronary artery disease and stroke, Stewart notes.
"There's a great focus on the search for genetic methods of treating diabetes and other chronic conditions," he says, "but although gene therapy is not yet available for diabetics, 'gym therapy' is. The benefits of exercise go way beyond controlling blood sugar. Physicians should urge their patients to become more active."
The prevalence of diabetes in the United States rose from 4.9 percent in 1990 to 7.3 percent in 2000, an increase of 49 percent, the report says. Health care costs associated with diabetes were $98 billion in 1997.
For his review paper on the cardiovascular benefits of exercise training on diabetes and hypertension, Stewart did a computerized search of studies performed between 1985 and 2002 of exercise training, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Contact: Karen Blum
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions