Physical activity and weight loss reduces heart attack risk in people with type 2 diabetes


Individuals with type 2 diabetes are 61% less likely to have a heart attack if they regularly exercise and consistently lose weight, latest research shows.

A new study has identified a “synergistic effect” in combining weight loss with exercise for people with type 2 diabetes.

The research shows that cardiovascular benefits were only evident when exercise and weight loss was combined as they were not sufficient alone.

Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.

Metformin and sulfonylureas are commonly prescribed type 2 diabetes medications as they help control blood sugar levels.

Experts do advise people with type 2 diabetes to consume a healthy diet, follow a weight management plan and regularly exercise.

A build-up of glucose in blood vessels can trigger the development of atherosclerosis – a condition where your arteries become narrowed, making it difficult for blood to flow through them, ultimately increasing your risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Dr Matthew O’Brien, associate professor of Medicine and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research, said: “The current study examined whether those who achieved both weight loss and longitudinal physical activity had a lower risk of acute cardiovascular events.

“Indeed, the study found that those who lost weight and achieved a high level of physical activity were less likely to develop acute cardiovascular events than their counterparts who didn’t lose weight or get significant physical activity.”

He added: “Weight loss alone or physical activity alone did not result in a lower risk of these events — that risk was only reduced among those who both lost weight and engaged in significant physical activity.”

Dr Cheng-Han Chen, a board-certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Programme at Memorial Care Saddleback Medical Centre in Laguna Hills, who was also not involved in the research, said: “The combination of weight loss and physical activity may have a synergistic effect to protect.

“The positive benefits of combining weight loss with exercise are likely multifactorial.

“This study previously reported on results that weight loss alone or increased physical activity alone were not [sufficient] to derive a cardiovascular benefit.

“It appears that there is a synergistic effect in combining weight loss with exercise, possibly mediated by improved glycaemic control, decreased visceral fat, and improved energy metabolism, specifically in people with diabetes.”

Dr O’Brien continued: “If people with diabetes already have known cardiovascular disease, such as heart failure or blocked arteries in the heart, they may not be able to perform as much physical activity as those who do not have cardiovascular disease.

“If walking is the main source of physical activity, we recommend walking briskly to the point where the body begins to sweat, and breathing becomes a bit more difficult.

“It is advisable to diversify physical activity and include several forms of cardiovascular exercise that work different muscle groups.”

He added: “These may include climbing stairs, jumping rope, biking, or a rowing machine. In addition, there appear to be unique metabolic benefits from resistance training with bands, free weights, or weight machines.

“This type of physical activity will increase muscle strength, while lowering blood sugar in adults with diabetes.”

Dr Chen concluded: “My recommendations for exercise for people with diabetes and obesity are the same as for everyone else: at least 15 to 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise – such as brisk walking, jogging, stairs, bicycling, or swimming – most days of the week.”


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