There could be an added bonus to keeping your cardiovascular health on track – a heart-healthy lifestyle can also prevent type 2 diabetes, researchers say.
And it's better to prevent type 2 diabetes than to have to treat it, the Ohio State University researchers added.
Factors to measure heart health
"Healthy people need to work to stay healthy. Follow the guidelines. Don't proceed to high blood sugar and then worry about stopping diabetes," said study leader Dr Joshua Joseph, an endocrinologist at the university's Wexner Medical Center, in Columbus, Ohio.
For the study, the researchers assessed diabetes among more than 7 700 participants in a stroke study.
The investigators used the American Heart Association's "Life's Simple 7" factors to measure heart health. That well-known tool assesses physical activity, diet, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar (glucose) and tobacco use.
Participants who were in the recommended ranges for at least four of the seven heart health factors had a 7% lower risk of developing diabetes over 10 years, according to the report.
"What's interesting is when we compared people who had normal blood glucose and those who already had impaired blood glucose," Joseph said.
A stitch in time...
"Those in normal levels who attained four or more guideline factors had an 80% lower risk of developing diabetes. Those who were already diabetic or prediabetic and met four of the factors had no change in lowering their risk for diabetes," he said in a university news release.
The findings show that people need to take steps to prevent diabetes before they're at risk, he explained.
By the time diabetes is diagnosed, people need high-intensity interventions that focus on physical activity and diet to promote weight loss and, possibly, medications, Joseph added.
According to Dr K. Craig Kent, dean of the College of Medicine, "This research adds to our collective understanding about how physicians can help their patients prevent a number of serious diseases, including heart disease, cancer and now diabetes."
Nearly one-third of Americans have prediabetes or diabetes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study results were published in the journal Diabetologia.
Image credit: iStock