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NIH Media Availability: Combination of five lifestyle factors linked to lower diabetes risk

For Immediate Release:
September 5, 2011, 5:00 PM EDT

A new analysis of data collected from more than 200,000 adults has found that a combination of five healthy lifestyle factors is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The research team, led by Jared Reis, Ph.D., of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, found that each factor people incorporate into their lives may lower their diabetes risk by about 31 percent for men and 39 percent for women, while all five factors together may lower risk by about 80 percent.

The lifestyle factors the team examined were following a healthy diet, maintaining an optimal body weight, engaging in recommended amounts of physical activity, keeping alcohol use to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and not smoking. The study suggests that being overweight or obese is the strongest lifestyle determinant for whether a person develops diabetes, but that those who are already overweight or obese may still be able to reduce their risk by adopting other healthy lifestyle factors.

The study will be published in the September 6 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The data were collected as part of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study of men and women aged 50-71 in 1995-1996, who were then followed for 11 years to see if they developed diabetes.

Similar studies to date have focused on the impact of one risk factor at a time, even though most people's lifestyles involve multiple factors, according to Reis.

The study also found that while family history of diabetes is strongly linked to the disease, people may be able to largely prevent or delay diabetes by leading a healthy lifestyle. In other words, said Reis, their risk may not be "predetermined" by genetics.

Jared P. Reis, Ph.D., first author of the study and an epidemiologist in the NHLBI, is available to comment on the findings.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Dr. Reis, contact the NHLBI Office of Communications at 301-496-4236 or