Type 2 diabetes may impair heart function as early as adolescence

It is well known that obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease often go hand-in-hand. However, some teens who develop type 2 diabetes early in life may not realize that their diagnosis may begin to impact their heart function even before they reach adulthood.

According to a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, teens with type 2 diabetes have a decreased ability to pump blood throughout their bodies during physical activity, compared to obese non-diabetic and healthy-weight adolescents.

"Past studies in adults with type 2 diabetes show that their heart and blood vessels' ability to adapt to exercise may be impaired. Our study shows that these changes in heart function may begin to happen very early after type 2 diabetes occurs," said the study's lead author, Teresa Pinto, MD.

While the participants between the ages of 12 and 20 worked out on stationary bicycles, the researchers took MRI images of their heart and femoral artery, a large blood vessel in the leg that supplies the leg with blood, both during and immediately after the exercise task.

The study's results showed that throughout physical activity, the hearts of subjects with type 2 diabetes did not fill up with as much blood as those of the teens who did not have the condition.

Moreover, blood flow to the femoral artery was significantly less among participants with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers said their findings indicated that type 2 diabetes may be a greater risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease later in life than excess weight alone.

Although youths with type 2 diabetes may have a decreased ability to engage in exercise, building up stamina through moderate-intensity physical activity may help them shed extra pounds and control their blood sugar levels.