Decrease Diabetes: Positive Lifestyle Changes

September 20, 2011

Diabetes is about lifestyle, find out what a recent NIH study revealed in terms of habits and lifestyle choices we make to increase or decrease our risk

Multiple lifestyle factors such as, healthy diet, exercising, maintaining normal body weight, not smoking and more - can lower one's risk of developing diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, previously know as adult onset diabetes, affects millions of Americans. Last year 26 million people were diagnosed; it is the seventh leading cause of death in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). New research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that a person’s odds of developing diabetes (type 2) may decrease for each positive lifestyle change they make. But exactly how does each of these changes factor into the equation?

The NIH researchers surveyed about 200,000 people, and found that diabetes risk can be reduced by 31 percent for men and 39 percent for women for each positive lifestyle change, such as regularly exercising or not smoking, or cutting back on alcohol consumption.

Participants were between the ages of 50 and 71, and had no evidence of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes at the start of the NIH – AARP diet-and-health study. Between 1995 and 1996, demographic information was recorded, along with lifestyle factors that increase diabetes risk.

Nearly eleven years later, the participants were surveyed again to determine diabetes diagnosis – 10 percent of men and 7.5 percent of women had been diagnosed.

People who manage to make improvements in all five risk areas – healthy diet, exercise, normal body weight, non smoking, minimal alcohol consumption - may be able to reduce their risk by about 80 percent, according to the study.

The study found that being overweight or obese is the strongest of the five-lifestyle risk factors studied, but those who are overweight can improve other lifestyle factors to decrease their risk. Even those with family history can improve their outcome by adhering to a healthier lifestyle.

So what can you do? Evaluate each of the five-lifestyle habits highlighted in this study and determine how you can improve upon each. Whether it’s cutting back on alcohol or parking further away in the parking lot to get a little more exercise, or cooking more at home, there are many small changes each of us can make for ourselves and our families to cut our risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases.

The study can be found in the September 6th issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.