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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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