The cardiovascular system of people with type 2 diabetes shows signs of aging significantly earlier than those without the disease finds a study being presented this week.
But exercise can help to slow down this premature aging, bringing the aging of type 2 diabetes patients' cardiovascular systems closer to that of people without the disease, said researcher Amy Huebschmann of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
She developed the finding with colleagues Wendy Kohrt and Judith Regensteiner, both from the same institution.
Huebschmann and her colleagues' review of current research suggests that it's inevitable that fitness gradually decreases with age, such that a healthy adult loses about 10 percent of fitness with each decade of life after age 40 or 50.
However, fitness levels are about 20 percent worse in people with type 2 diabetes than in nondiabetic adults. These findings have been shown in the adolescent, middle-aged adult, and older adult populations.
Diabetes appears to place a 20 percent tax on your fitness levels at each stage of life. Not only do these patients have more trouble with exercise, the researchers said, but also with activities of daily living, such as a simple stroll to the corner store.
This loss of fitness increases the mortality of people with type 2 diabetes, said Huebschmann, as well as the risk of early disability.
"It means you might move into an institutionalized setting, such as an assisted living facility, much earlier," she explained.
The good news is that exercise training can decrease these premature aging effects, a result that Huebschmann and her colleagues, as well as other researchers, have shown in various studies.
Findings suggest that after 12 to 20 weeks of regular exercise, fitness in type 2 diabetic people can improve by as much as 40 percent, although fitness levels did not fully normalize to levels of nondiabetic people.
"In other words, these defects are not necessarily permanent. They can be improved, which is great news," Huebschmann added.
Huebschmann, whose research involves finding and overcoming barriers of physical activity for people with type 2 diabetes, noted that each piece of research she and her colleagues present gives hope that exercise training can help lower the risks of cardiovascular problems associated with this disease.
However, she added, these findings can't make people with type 2 diabetes incorporate the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise into their lives.
An abstract of their study will be discussed at The Integrative Biology of Exercise VI meeting being held October 10-13 at the Westin Westminster Hotel in Westminster, CO.