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Do the 7 simple rules for heart health also reduce the risk of diabetes?

A recent study investigated whether adopting seven recommendations by the American Heart Association can improve heart health and reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently identified a list of seven health factors or behaviours that, if adopted, can successfully maintain heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic complications like cancers.

These seven lifestyle factors include:

  1. Managing blood pressure
  2. Reducing blood sugar levels
  3. Controlling cholesterol levels
  4. Getting active
  5. Eating better
  6. Losing weight
  7. Quitting smoking

By following these recommendations, the American Heart Association notes that individuals can avoid the risk of health complications as they age and live longer, healthier lives.

Will these recommendations also reduce the risk of diabetes? 

In a secondary analysis of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, Dr. Joshua J. Joseph and colleagues investigated whether adhering to the seven health factors recommended by the AHA can also significantly reduced the risk of developing diabetes.

Specifically, they wanted to determine whether the association between adherence to the seven factors and risk of diabetes differed between individuals with impaired and normal fasting glucose, which correspond to high and low-risk individuals, respectively. The analysis included data from 7758 individuals, 1754 of whom were considered high-risk individuals with impaired fasting glucose levels. They published their results in the journal Diabetologia.

Following hear healthy tips resulted in an 80% lower risk of diabetes

In summary, the researchers found that in low-risk participants, following four or more of the seven health factors resulted in an 80% lower risk of developing diabetes over a 10-year period. In contrast, no such association was found in high-risk individuals.

Collectively, the secondary analysis of the REGARDS study found that if healthy adults adhere to these tips, coined “Life’s Simple 7”, they can significantly reduce their risk of diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Although following these guidelines cannot reverse diabetes, they can maintain health and prevent negative health outcomes.

These findings emphasize the importance of policies that educate the general public on the health benefits of following the recommendations laid out by the AHA. Creating programs that help individuals quit smoking and encouraging physical activity and healthy dietary habits will be key in preventing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as improving overall health.

Written by Haisam Shah, BSc

Reference: Joseph, J. J., Bennett, A., Tcheugui, J. B. E., Effoe, V. S., Odei, J. B., Hidalgo, B., … & Carson, A. P. (2019). Ideal cardiovascular health, glycaemic status and incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: theREasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. Diabetologia, 1-12.

Haisam Shah BSc
Haisam Shah BSc
Haisam is a first-year Masters student in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. His research involves understanding the role of cardiac fibroblasts in the progressive development of cardiac fibrosis following a myocardial infarction. He graduated from McGill University with a Bachelors of Science – Honors in Pharmacology, where he had the opportunity of investigating potential combination therapies for Glioblastoma Multiforme.


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