Improvements in diet and exercise reduce heart risk for type 2 diabetics

Lifestyle changes that include improving diet and getting more exercise are among the most important things that individuals who have type 2 diabetes can do to improve their overall health.

These are the findings of a study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The results could help diabetics lose weight, improve fitness levels, control blood glucose levels and reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease.

Scientists from the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) Research Group recruited more than 5,000 overweight or obese individuals with type 2 diabetes into their study to test the effects of intensive lifestyle interventions. Half the group was assigned to participate in the intervention, while the remaining participants were assigned to education classes.

After the four-year study period, researchers found that participants in the intervention group lost more weight and had healthier levels of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. These benefits persisted through the end of the study.

"Although the differences between the two groups were greatest initially and decreased over time for several measures, the differences between the groups averaged across the four years were substantial and indicate that the intensive lifestyle intervention group spent a considerable time at lower cardiovascular disease risk," the authors wrote.