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Diabetes Health Center

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Improving Lifestyle Reduces Diabetes Risk

Making Several Healthy Changes Could Cut Diabetes Risk by About 80%, Study Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 5, 2011 -- Multiple lifestyle factors such as obesity and alcohol consumption increase a person’s risk of diabetes. But new research suggests that a person’s odds of developing the disease may decrease for each positive lifestyle change they make.

Lifestyle factors that can influence the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include diet, weight, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use.

Researchers, who surveyed about 200,000 people, say diabetes risk can be reduced by 31% for men and 39% for women for each positive lifestyle change, such as quitting smoking or regularly exercising. Also, alcohol use should not exceed one drink daily for women and two drinks daily for men.

Positive Lifestyle Changes Reduce Diabetes Risk

People who manage to make improvements in all five risk areas may be able to reduce their risk by about 80%, according to the study.

It is known that lifestyle improvements may delay or prevent the disease, the study says, but it’s less clear how making multiple changes might affect risk.

The scientists surveyed more than 114,996 men and nearly 92,483 women between the ages of 50 and 71 who had no evidence of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes at the start of the study. Between 1995 and 1996, demographic information was recorded, along with lifestyle factors that increase diabetes risk.

Ten years later, the participants were surveyed again to determine which ones had been diagnosed with diabetes by a doctor. During that time, 10% of men and 7.5% of women had been diagnosed.

The study also indicates that being overweight or obese is the strongest lifestyle risk factor of the five studied, but that people who already are overweight may still be able to reduce their risk by assuming low-risk lifestyle behaviors.

Researchers also found that even people with a family history of diabetes and are more likely to get the disease may be able to delay onset by leading a healthier lifestyle.

The study is published in the Sept. 6 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

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