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Lifestyle Factors Linked to Elderly Diabetics

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Cardiovascular Health Study found out that as the population ages, even little changes in lifestyle could yield to an increased risk in diabetes.

For over 10 years, the researchers analyzed the physical activity, dietary habits, tobacco and alcohol use, and amount of body fat among 4,883 subjects aged 65 and older.

They found out that the lifestyle factors were independently correlated with incidence of diabetes. “Each positive score in a lifestyle factor was associated with a 35 percent lower risk of diabetes among those with a low-risk lifestyle,” the researchers explained.

Low-risk lifestyle was defined by physical activity level (leisure-time activity and walking pace) above the median; dietary score (higher fiber intake and polyunsaturated to saturated fat ratio, lower trans-fat intake, and lower mean glycemic index) in the top 2 quintiles; never smoked or former smoker more than 20 years ago or for fewer than 5 pack-years; alcohol use (predominantly light or moderate); body mass index less than 25 (calculated as weight in kilogramsdivided by height in mete,s squared); and waist circumference of 88 cm for women or 92 cm for men.

People with good physical activity and dietary habits were found to have a 46 percent lower incidence of diabetes. Those with physical activity, dietary, smoking, and alcohol habits defined as low-risk had an 82 percent lower incidence 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.”

On the contrary, not having those four low-risk lifestyle habits seemed to be tied to 80 percent of new cases of diabetes. “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,” the researchers wrote.

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