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[IP] Rx for Women Diabetics: Get Moving!
Rx for Women Diabetics: Get Moving!
Jan. 23, 2001 (HealthScout) -- Diabetic women who are physically active
greatly reduce their risk of having heart attacks and strokes, confirms a new
In the largest and longest study ever done on the topic, researchers at
Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and
Women's Hospital in Boston have proven what experts have suspected all along.
"This is really encouraging news for people with Type II diabetes because
exercise appears to be effective," says Dr. Frank B. Hu, an assistant
professor in the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health.
"Exercise has multiple benefits. It can reduce obesity, reduce cholesterol and
improve glucose control in people with diabetes."
The American Diabetes Association has recommended exercise as the cornerstone
of management for people with diabetes, "but until now, there wasn't much data
to support this," Hu says. "Our data are a strong support of their statement."
The latest study on Type II diabetes is just one of many to come out of the
Harvard Nurses' Health Study, which began in 1980 and initially involved more
than 116,000 nurses. This particular study followed 5,125 female nurses with
diabetes for 14 years. The nurses filled out detailed questionnaires about
their lifestyle habits (diet, exercise, sleep, medications) and illnesses five
times since the early 1980s.
The participants with diabetes who said they exercised the most suffered the
least number of heart attacks and strokes, the study says. Findings appear in
the current issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"Diabetics can also have other complications -- renal problems, nerve
problems, eye problems," Hu says. "Whether exercise will have benefit for
those complications we don't know, but, in the future, these are the areas
that should be studied."
Dr. Daniel Einhorn, medical director of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes
Institute in San Diego, says the study makes two important points.
"First, diabetes in women is an especially serious illness because they lose
the protection they otherwise have against heart disease," Einhorn says.
"Their risk becomes the same as that of men. Post-menopausal women with
diabetes are at especially high risk for all cardiovascular complications."
Secondly, women should "think of physical activity as another drug, like
estrogen, that protects them against cardiovascular disease, has no side
effects and has multiple benefits," he says.
About 8.1 million women -- or 8.2 percent of all women in the United States --
have Type II diabetes, but about a third of them don't know it, according to
the American Diabetes Association. Besides an increased risk of heart disease,
women with diabetes have increased risk of vaginal infections and
complications during pregnancy. Also, the risk of developing diabetic
ketoacidosis, or a diabetic coma, is 50 percent greater in women than in men.
Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes, face
a higher risk of developing Type II diabetes later in life.
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