Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk

As population ages, even small changes affect incidence, study finds

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TUESDAY, April 28, 2009 (HealthDay News) --Numerous lifestyle factors affect older adults' risk of diabetes, a new study finds.

U.S. researchers analyzed the link between lifestyle and incidence of diabetes over 10 years in 4,883 men and women aged 65 and older. The lifestyle factors examined included physical activity, dietary habits, tobacco and alcohol use, and amount of body fat.

The study authors found that each of these lifestyle factors was independently associated with incidence of diabetes. Overall, each positive score in a lifestyle factor was associated with a 35 percent lower risk of diabetes among those with a low-risk lifestyle.

People with good physical activity and dietary habits had a 46 percent lower incidence of diabetes. Those classified as low-risk based on their physical activity, dietary habits, smoking habits, and alcohol consumption had an 82 percent lower incidence of diabetes. Not having those four low-risk lifestyle habits appeared to be associated with 80 percent of new cases of diabetes.

People who had those four low-risk lifestyle habits -- and also weren't overweight or didn't have a large waist circumference -- were 89 percent less likely to develop diabetes.

The study is published in the April 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"These findings provide an estimate of the public health burden of combined non-optimal lifestyle risk factors for incidence of diabetes in older adults, the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Our findings suggest that, even later in life, the great majority of cases of diabetes are related to lifestyle factors," wrote the researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Cardiovascular Health Study.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about diabetes.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, April 27, 2009

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