Diabetes

Healthy lifestyle linked to 90% lower risk of diabetes in susceptible women

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A study found that women with a history or type 2 diabetes can still reduce their risk of developing it by living a healthy lifestyle. This includes not smoking, eating well, exercising regularly, and not being overweight. The BMJ today.

The results show that women who adhered to five key lifestyle factors—healthy weight, high-quality diet, regular physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption, and not smoking—had a 90% lower risk of the disorder compared with women who did not adhere to any, even among those who were overweight or obese, or were at greater genetic risk of type 2 diabetes.

It is well-known that a healthy lifestyle is associated a lower risk of developing type II diabetes in healthy middle-aged people.

We don’t know if this applies to high risk women who have had diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetics) or if obesity or genetic risk for type 2 diabetes may influence this association.

To fill in these research gaps, researchers evaluated the associations of adherence to optimal levels of five modifiable risk factors—healthy body mass index, high-quality diet, regular physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption, and not smoking, with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among these women at high risk.

Their findings are based in part on data from 4,275 women who have had gestational diabetes mellitus documented by the Nurses’ Health Study II. These women were followed up for 28 years with repeated weight and lifestyle measures.

Researchers also looked at whether these associations changed depending on obesity or genetic susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.

924 people developed type 2 diabetes in the 28-year average follow-up.

After taking into account other major diabetes risk factors, researchers discovered that participants with optimal levels after the index pregnancy had a higher than 90% chance of developing type 2 diabetes than those without them.

Each additional optimal modifiable element was associated with an incrementally lower incidence of type 2 diabetes. Women with one, two or three of the optimal modifiable factors had a 6%, 39% and 68% lower risk than women with none. They also had a 85%, 92%, and 85% lower risk.

These positive associations were consistent even for obese women or those with higher genetic susceptibility of type 2 diabetes.

This is an observational study and cannot establish cause. Researchers acknowledge that the data was based upon personal reports, which may have affected accuracy. The study was primarily conducted by European-ancestry healthcare professionals. Therefore, results may not be applicable to other racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups.

These strengths include the use of data from large studies with repeated measurements of behavioral and health risk factors. This helps to better capture long-term lifestyle habits and reduce measurement error.

The researchers state that their study “highlights an important public health opportunity to prevent type 2 diabetes in this high risk population.”


Poor diet is associated to increased diabetes risk across all genetic risk gradients


More information:
Prospective cohort study: Modifiable risk factors, long-term risk of type 2 Diabetes in individuals with a history or gestational diabetes mellitus. The BMJ (2022). DOI: 10.1136/bmj-2022-070312

Provided by
British Medical Journal


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A healthy lifestyle is linked to a 90% lower risk of developing diabetes in women who are at high risk (2022, September 21).
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