Study: Diabetics Who Lose Weight Still Face Heart Attack Risk

By on June 26, 2013
Despite previous recommendations that losing weight could help eliminate health risks associated with type 2 diabetes, a new study says it won’t help improve two major health risks: heart attack and stroke.

The findings, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that obese adults with type 2 diabetes who lost weight experienced fewer rates of depression and high blood pressure–but their risk for heart attack or stroke stayed the same.

“In this study, we compared the effect of an intensive lifestyle intervention with a control regimen of diabetes support and education among overweight or obese patients with type 2 diabetes,” says the study’s researchers. “At a median follow-up of almost 10 years, there was no significant difference between the two groups in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.”

The study’s researchers have struggled to explain why this may occur–although some believe that it is partially due to focusing exclusively on weight loss, and not the types of food consumed instead. Researchers aimed to help participants lose weight by using a simple calorie restriction and increased exercise module; specific dietary plans, such as adopting a clean eating lifestyle, were not taken into consideration.

Still, researchers emphasize benefits still exist for type 2 diabetics who wish to reach a normal weight.

“This study shows that overweight and obese adults with type 2 diabetes can lose weight and keep it off with many important health benefits,” says Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which funded the study. “It reinforces the recommendation that overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes should increase their physical activity levels and lose weight to improve their health.”

How These Findings Apply to Type 2 Diabetics

So a new study has our worst fears confirmed: Losing weight alone won’t reduce your heart attack or stroke risk. While losing weight can help improve other risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes, such as depression and high blood pressure, you’ll need to work harder for a healthier heart–but how?

  • You can’t just count calories. Counting calories is a good way to lose weight, but it’s not a good way to get healthy. To really reduce your stroke and heart attack risk, you need to focus on eating foods that promote a healthy heart, such as eating omega-3 fatty acids, eating fewer processed products, and eating an assortment of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Cut out the alcohol. Alcohol is a big no no if you’re diabetic, but it’s just as important to cut it out if you’re dealing with heart problems. Excessive alcohol intake can increase your risk of heart or stroke, especially if you are obese.
  • Watch your salt intake. Although losing weight may reduce your high blood pressure, here’s something that can make it worse: a high sodium intake. And with high blood pressure also comes an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, so it’s best to keep it on the down low. How to avoid it: Cut out the junk and processed food as an easy way to keep sodium low.

Readers: Do you have type 2 diabetes? What are some ways you stay healthy?

Cardiovascular Effects of Weight Loss in Type 2 Diabetics (Study)
Lifestyle Intervention Did Not Reduce Cardiovascular Events in Type 2

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