People with long-duration type 1 diabetes should consider limiting their exercise intensity to reduce the strain on nerve responses, researchers say.
New evidence has found that high blood sugar over many years weakens the autonomic reflex that regulates blood pressure during exercise. This could increase the risk of acute heart problems during intense exercise in people with diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).
Researchers from the University of Texas claim this is the first study to provide evidence on blood pressure and circulatory responses to exercise depending on the duration of type 1 diabetes.
The study team assessed these changes during exercise in three groups of rats in the early, middle and late stages of an animal model of type 1 diabetes.
Blood pressure responses were heightened in the early and middle stage groups, while male rats in the late stage of type 1 diabetes, but not female rats, had a lower response.
The findings suggest that in the early stages hyperactive nerves are responsible for abnormal blood pressure increases, similar to what happens in diabetic neuropathy. These increases can be dangerous for those at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and could increase the risk of heart complications, such as heart attack or stroke, during exercise.
The researchers hypothesise that in the late stages of type 1 diabetes, the pressure increases reach a point where nerves cannot sufficiently relay information from the muscles.
“These novel findings provide new insights on the effects of T1DM on the autonomic control of circulation during exercise over the course of diabetes and highlight another severe implication that T1DM has on the cardiovascular system,” the authors wrote.
However, the findings do not indicate that people with type 1 diabetes shouldn’t do exercise, rather the exercise you do should depend on your level of health.
Those with nerve problems, such as neuropathy, may need to limit the intensity of exercise, but if you have lived with well-controlled diabetes and no additional health complications then you may not need to ease up on the intensity.
The findings appear online in the journal Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

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