Published Less than an hour ago
By Ana Sandoiu
Fact checked by Isabel Godfrey
New research suggests that following the American Heart Association's guidelines for maintaining heart health can also drastically reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Exercising and healthful eating are among the "simple 7" guidelines that the AHA recommend.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there are seven cardiovascular risk factors that people can change to improve their heart health.
Dubbed "Life's Simple 7," these risk factors are: "smoking status, physical activity, weight, diet, blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure."
The AHA note that research has shown that maintaining a minimum of five of the seven factors at an ideal level can lower the risk of cardiovascular death by almost 80 percent.
New research, which features in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, finds that these seven modifiable risk factors can also stave off diabetes.
Coming up with new strategies for preventing diabetes is crucial as over 100 million people in the United States are currently living with the condition or with prediabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), untreated prediabetes can progress into full-blown type 2 diabetes within 5 years.
Dr. Joshua J. Joseph, an endocrinologist and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, led the new research.
Following the 7 steps cuts risk by 70 percent
In the new study, Dr. Joseph and colleagues evaluated diabetes status in 7,758 individuals who participated in the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke Study.
The team used the AHA's seven factors to assess the cardiovascular health of the participants.
The analysis revealed that participants who had at least four out of the seven factors within the ideal range were 70 percent less likely to develop diabetes over the next 10 years.
"What's interesting," reports the study's lead researcher, "is [that] when we compared people who had normal blood glucose and those who already had impaired blood glucose, [...] [t]hose in normal levels who attained four or more guideline factors had an 80 percent lower risk of developing diabetes."
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However, he notes that those who already had prediabetes and met four of the seven factors did not seem to benefit from the lifestyle changes. Instead, their risk of diabetes remained the same.
This is further proof, continues the researcher, that people should use the "simple 7" to prevent the onset of diabetes.
"Healthy people need to work to stay healthy," says Dr. Joseph. "Follow the guidelines," he advises.
"Don't proceed to high blood sugar and then worry about stopping diabetes. By that point, people need high-intensity interventions that focus on physical activity and diet to promote weight loss and, possibly, medications to lower the risk of diabetes."
Dr. Joshua J. Joseph
The physician also stresses the importance of educating the public about preventing diabetes. He and his team are actively engaged in community outreach programs that inform people about healthful practices.
"We don't wait for people to come to us as patients," Dr. Joseph says. "We're very engaged in taking our work from the lab and applying it to our populations so we can help keep our communities healthy."
The video below further details the findings and zooms in on the case of Tim Anderson, a man who has recently received a diabetes diagnosis: