Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Beyond Ecstatic!

I read something this morning that validates the value of prevention in a profound manner and reinforced my convictions and sense of mission. It started with some bad news, but it got much better.

The bad news was that a recent pilot study,  led by Sabyasachi Sen, MD, from Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., and colleagues, showed that prediabetics have similar micro-vascular dysfunction as diabetics. Prediabetes is generally defined as fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125. Vascular dysfunction refers to the changes to the flexibility of arteries that contributes toward stroke, heart disease, and death. The less flexible your arteries, due to factors such as hardening of the arteries, the greater the vascular dysfunction.  It's long been known that diabetics have vascular problems, but this study showed that so do prediabetics. This is bad news because it is estimated that  nearly 80 million Americans are already prediabetic and that number is expected to steadily grow as the obesity rate grows.

The good news was that unlike with diabetics, aerobic exercise can have a profound effect. It's not to say that exercise doesn't help diabetics; rather, exercise has a dramatic impact on prediabetics. The researchers found that "exercise improves vessel function almost back to normal status, which is not the case with diabetes. It's been shown that exercise only improves the vascular reactivity of diabetics by half of what was achieved during the study."

The implications of the study is that there is a therapeutic window (an ideal period to treat) for prediabetics to return their vascular function to normal with a non-pharmacologic (no drugs) intervention. Aerobic exercise can "reduce the cardiovascular risk in a patient population that is at risk of developing diabetes."

The patients involved in the study did not have high blood pressure and were fairly active but not undergoing any type of formal exercise program. The exercise consisted of 150 minutes per week at 70% of the maximum heart rate, which is considered moderate exercise by American Diabetes Association criteria. This leads me to believe that those who are hypertensive and live sedentary lives will garner even greater benefit from increasing their exercise.

The implication of this study is further support of the Ben Franklin adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  Don't wait until you are diagnosed with diabetes. Don't wait until you add the next few pounds and become further overweight and obese. Don't wait until you find out you have heart disease or suffer a heart attack or stroke. Get more exercise today when your efforts will yield far greater results. You only have one life to live and one body to live it in. Get up now and start exercising! You must do it and you can.

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