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Have Diabetes? Lifestyle Changes May Help Mobility

Study Shows Modest Weight Loss and Exercise Can Cut Loss-of-Mobility Risk by About 50%
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 28, 2012 -- Losing weight and exercising may help people with type 2 diabetes hold on to their mobility as they age, a new study shows.

The good news is that neither lifestyle change requires drastic measures.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that losing just a little bit of weight and adding 25 minutes of physical activity a day can help prevent worsening of mobility-related disabilities among people with type 2 diabetes.

Experts who weren’t involved in the research praised the study for showing, once again, how critical lifestyle changes can be.

“I think this is an important study which comes to state what’s been said again and again: that you have to lose weight and be fit. The more fit you are, the fewer problems you’re going to have,” says Spyros Mezitis, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He was not involved in the new study.

Mobility-Related Disability and Diabetes

Problems with mobility become more common with age. Studies have shown that about 30% of adults over age 50 face some kind of difficulty with everyday activities.

“When you look at people with diabetes, that basically doubles. Over 60% of people who have diabetes report some difficulty in their daily activities,” says study researcher W. Jack Rejeski, PhD, a professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Activity limitations include problems like struggling to climb stairs or push a vacuum cleaner, or having trouble bending over to pick up something off the floor.

“The loss of independence, the loss of being able to do valued activities, is what really is important to people as they age, so it’s fairly catastrophic from a personal standpoint,” Rejeski says.

Weight Loss and Exercise to Prevent Mobility Problems

For the study, researchers randomly assigned adults aged 45 to 74 with type 2 diabetes to a program of diet and exercise or to regular diabetes education and support classes.

The goal of the lifestyle intervention program was to help people lose at least 7% of their body weight by reducing calories and boosting physical activity by 175 minutes a week -- or 25 minutes a day -- of moderately paced exercise, like walking.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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