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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Physical Activity Improves Cognitive and Vascular Health in Older People with Diabetes

People with diabetes are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia. Previous research has shown that people with diabetes who get more exercise are less likely to develop these complications, but the reason for this has remained unclear.

Now, a new study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers finds that physical activity in older adults with diabetes increases the circulation of substances that repair vascular and neuronal damage.

The study, published in the Journal of Diabetes Research, shows an association between more physical activity and higher circulating levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

“Physical activity could be a key factor in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia in people with diabetes,” says study co-author and BUSPH doctoral candidate Ms. Kendra Davis-Plourde. “This new evidence adds to the list of reasons people with diabetes should try to stay active as they age.”

IGF-1, BDNF, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are substances involved in the creation of blood cells and neurons, and also help repair vascular and neurological damage. People with diabetes tend to have lower levels of these substances circulating in their blood, and previous research has suggested that this may be part of the reason for their higher risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia.

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