Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the most common cause of premature death and disability among patients with type 1 diabetes. Diabetic nephropathy accounts for the increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality of these patients. We recently showed that the intensity of exercise predicts the incidence and progression of diabetic nephropathy in patients with type 1 diabetes. Little is known about the relationship between physical activity and CVD. Therefore, we studied how physical activity affects the risk of CVD events in patients with type 1 diabetes.
A 10 year follow-up study including 2180 type 1 diabetes patients from the nationwide multicentre Finnish Diabetic Nephropathy Study (FinnDiane). Leisure time physical activity (LTPA) was assessed by a previously validated self-report questionnaire. A CVD event was defined as a verified myocardial infarction, coronary procedure or stroke. Patients were analysed separately for the risk of developing a first ever CVD event and for the risk of a recurrent CVD event following a baseline event.
A total of 206 patients had an incident CVD event during follow-up. A higher total LTPA and higher intensity, frequency and duration of activity were associated with a lower risk of incident CVD events. The observed association between exercise frequency and incident CVD remained significant when adjusted for classic risk factors. Exercise intensity also had a borderline effect on the recurrence-free time in patients with a major CVD event at baseline.
This study suggests that exercise, particularly high frequency and high intensity exercise, may reduce the risk of CVD events in patients with type 1 diabetes.