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Lifestyle Can Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Exercise helps patients to lower risk of type 2 diabetes

Following a healthy lifestyle positively effects one's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Dariush Mozaffarian, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues have published a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine which reinforce previous studies linking lifestyle factors to diabetes prevention.

The researchers followed 4,883 men and women 65 and older for 10 years. None of these participants had diabetes at the beginning of the study. Over the 10 year follow-up period, 337 new cases of type 2 diabetes were diagnosed.

Participants were divided into low- and high-risk groups within five lifestyle factor categories. These categories included physical activity, diet, alcohol use, smoking habits, and body fat. Each of these lifestyle factors were found to be independently associated with diabetes prevention. This remained true even after adjusting for age, sex, race, education level, and annual income.

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Participants in the low-risk groups of all five lifestyle factor categories had an 89% lower risk of diabetes. Simply being physically active was noted to cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by half.

The low-risk groups of type 2 diabetes included

  • Physical activity at an above average level (walking regularly and engaging in leisure activities)
  • Eating a diet that is high-fiber, low saturated fat, low trans fat, low sugar
  • Light or moderate alcohol use (up to two drinks per day)
  • Nonsmoker
  • Having a normal or near normal Body mass index (BMI) of less than 25 and a waist circumference of 34.6 inches or less for women and 36 inches or less for men.

Even a single change can improve your diabetes or cut your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Overall, the study showed people in the low-risk category for each lifestyle factor had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle Risk Factors and New-Onset Diabetes Mellitus in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study; Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(8):798-807; Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH; Aruna Kamineni, MPH; Mercedes Carnethon, PhD; Luc Djoussé, MD, ScD; Kenneth J. Mukamal, MD; David Siscovick, MD, MPH