FRIDAY, July 27, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- When parents of type 1 diabetics push their kids off the couch and outside to play for at least 30 minutes, they may be saving their children's hearts, new findings suggest.
A study by German and Austrian researchers demonstrated that as little as half an hour of physical activity on a regular basis can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels even in children and teens with type 1 diabetes.
The researchers analyzed the physical activity levels outside of school and cardiovascular health of more than 23,000 subjects between the ages of 3 and 18. They found that heart health increased as the amount of physical activity increased.
The more active the children were, the lower the percentage of patients with high cholesterol and triglycerides. Nearly 40 percent of those with no regular physical activity had high cholesterol and triglycerides. Of the children who were active once or twice a week, 36 percent had high cholesterol and triglycerides, and for those who were active three or more times a week, only 34.4 percent had high cholesterol and triglycerides.
Writing in the August issue of Diabetes Care the researchers reported that children who were active at least once or twice per week were also less likely to have high blood pressure than those who had no exercise.
A key result with implications for people with diabetes is that the frequency of regular physical activity was one of the most important influencing factors for HbA1c, a test that measures average blood glucose levels over two to three months. The test helps people with diabetes track how well they are managing their blood glucose levels. Past studies have shown that the more time children with type 1 diabetes spend being sedentary and watching TV, the harder it is for them to manage their blood glucose levels.
"Clearly, getting off the couch and out of doors, where they can be more physically active, is good for all kids," said lead researcher Dr. Antje Herbst, of the Department of Pediatrics of the Hospital of Leverkusen in Germany, in a prepared statement. "But for children with type 1 diabetes, the need to stay physically active is even greater, due to the increased risk for heart disease. Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is something we need to encourage during childhood, so that these kids build a habit they can continue for a lifetime."
Heart disease is the leading killer of people with diabetes. Nearly two out of three children with type 1 diabetes have one or more heart disease risk factors. By the time they reach their 20s, they are five times more likely to die from cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease than their peers. According to the American Diabetes Association, one in every 400 to 600 children and teens has type 1 diabetes.
To learn more about children with type 1 diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.