Diabetes Self-Management Blog

People with prediabetes have similar dysfunction in their small blood vessels as people with Type 2 diabetes, but exercise can help improve the health of these vessels, according to a small study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Vascular reactivity is essentially how flexible a blood vessel is in expanding to allow blood to flow through. The healthier the blood vessel, the better its vascular reactivity. It is known that people with diabetes typically have poor vascular reactivity compared to people without diabetes, but there is not a lot of information regarding the blood vessel health of people with prediabetes.

To determine the vascular reactivity in those with prediabetes and to see if exercise could improve blood vessel health in this population, researchers from Baystate Medical Center in Massachussetts recruited 20 people with prediabetes. The participants had an average age of 52, a body-mass index of 30.3 (considered to be obese), a blood pressure level of 125/76 mm Hg, and a brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (a measure of vascular reactivity) of 5.6, which is comparable to that in people with diabetes.

For six weeks, half of the group participated in a formal exercise program, consisting of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, while the other half did not exercise. After a four-week break, the groups reversed roles for another six weeks.

The researchers found that, over the study period, the exercise program did not significantly change weight, fat mass, or blood pressure level. It did, however, significantly improve vascular reactivity, in addition to various other markers of blood vessel health.

“If you would have asked me before the study what to expect, I wouldn’t have predicted their vessel reactivity would be almost as poor as [in] those with diabetes. The good this is that exercise improves vessel function almost back to normal status [in people with prediabetes],” noted lead researcher Sabyasachi Sen, MD.

Sen added that the study was limited due to the small sample size and the fact that 90% of the participants were Caucasian. He plans to do a larger, follow-up study to determine whether continuing with the same exercise regimen will lead to weight loss and further improvements in blood vessel health.

For more information, read the article “Exercise Pumps Up Prediabetic Blood Vessels” or click here to download the study abstract presented at the AACE 21st Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress (after downloading the 2012 Abstract Book, search for “Sabyasachi Sen, MD” to find the relevant abstract). And for some tips and strategies on making exercise more fun, check out this article by certified diabetes educator and exercise physiologist Richard Weil.

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