Healthy Lifestyle Helps Prevent Chronic Diseases

Adherence to four simple behaviors decreases risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and cancer

THURSDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who practice four simple lifestyle behaviors -- never smoking, maintaining a body mass index lower than 30, engaging in at least 3.5 hours per week of physical activity, and consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- can significantly decrease their risk of chronic diseases, according to a study in the Aug. 10/24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Earl S. Ford, M.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues followed 23,153 Germans, ages 35 to 65 years, for a mean of 7.8 years, during which 2,006 subjects developed new-onset diabetes, heart attack, stroke or cancer.

Compared to subjects who engaged in none of the healthy behaviors, the researchers found that those who engaged in all four had a 78 percent decreased risk of developing a chronic disease. A healthy lifestyle was associated with dramatically reduced risks of diabetes and heart attack (93 and 81 percent, respectively) and significantly decreased risks of stroke and cancer (50 and 36 percent, respectively).

"Our results and those of others emphasize the importance and urgency of continuing vigorous efforts to convince people to adopt healthy lifestyles," the authors conclude. "Because the roots of these factors often originate during the formative stages of life, it is especially important to start early in teaching the important lessons concerning healthy living."

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Rick Ansorge

Rick Ansorge

Published on August 13, 2009

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