Nurse-directed intervention eases heart disease, diabetes

Tess Harris, M.D.
Tess Harris, M.D.

Having primary care nurses promote physical activity could be effective enough to reduce heart disease and Type 2 diabetes risk among seniors, according to a British study.

Led by Tess Harris, M.D.,  at St. George's University of London, researchers assigned 298 patients ages 60 to 75 to receive standard care or a physical activity intervention. In four visits, nurses provided a physical activity plan and asked participants to track activity with a pedometer and a diary.

At three months, and again at the year mark, both the control and intervention groups were asked to wear accelerometers to measure the intensity and duration of their physical activity.

At three months, the intervention group outpaced the control group by an average of 1,037 steps daily. It also spent 63 more minutes a week in moderate-to-vigorous activity. 

After a year, those differences averaged 609 steps daily and 40 minutes weekly, an activity level the researchers estimate could decrease heart disease and type 2 diabetes risk by 5.5% and 9.1%, respectively. 

Harris said further trials are needed to determine large-scale costs and whether the intervention would be effective in socio-economically diverse populations

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