Exercise Directly Affects Heart Risk

The risk of cardiovascular complications in people who have Type 2 diabetes is directly related to how frequently and how long they exercise, according to a new study from researchers in Sweden. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people with Type 2.

Studies have proven that people with Type 2 diabetes have up to five times the chance of developing heart disease or stroke compared to people without diabetes, and research has also indicated that physical activity is directly linked with the risk of developing a cardiovascular condition.


To evaluate whether the risks of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and death are associated with levels of exercise in people with Type 2, researchers looked at 15,642 people with the condition drawn from the Swedish National Diabetes Register. The participants, who had an average age of 60, were followed either for five years or until a first cardiovascular event or death.

The participants were grouped into either a low-level-activity group or a high-level-activity group, based on their responses to a questionnaire. Low-level activity was defined as either never exercising or exercising once or twice a week for 30 minutes, while high-level activity was defined as exercising for 30 minutes three or more times a week.

The results showed that people in the low-level-activity group had a 25% greater chance of coronary and cardiovascular events and a 70% greater risk of a fatal cardiovascular event than those in the high-level-activity group. The results were maintained after controlling for age, gender, duration of diabetes, type of hypoglycemia treatment, and smoking status.

Further analysis found that those who maintained a low level of physical activity over the five-year study period had a considerably higher risk estimate for coronary and cardiovascular events and death than all other study participants, including those who had raised their exercise levels from baseline. This suggests that increasing the frequency and duration of exercise after a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes will reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and death, while remaining sedentary will increase the risk.

“The message from this study is clear. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Engage in physical activity. Alongside diet, these are the cornerstone[s] of Type 2 diabetes treatment. If you are presently on a low level of physical activity, do more,” said lead study author Björn Zethelius, MD, PhD.

For more information about the research, read the article “Cardiovascular Complications [of] Diabetes Associated With Physical Activity” or see the study’s abstract in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. And to learn more about protecting your heart, click here.