Healthy lifestyle benefits those with diabetes

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Research presented Tuesday at the 20th World Diabetes Congress in Montreal provides further evidence that healthy behaviors reduce mortality in people with and without diabetes.

“Few previous studies have measured the effectiveness of healthy behaviors in delaying mortality among adults with diagnosed diabetes,” lead researcher Dr. Sharon Saydah told Reuters Health. “We looked at the association of health behaviors with mortality in the general U.S. population among both adults with and without diabetes.”

The study included 1,177 people with diabetes and 15,217 without diabetes who took part in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994 and were followed through 2001.

A greater number of healthy behaviors was linked to a 15 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause in diabetics and a 17 percent reduced risk in non-diabetics, after adjusting for various factors that might influence the results.

Subjects in the top 20 percent of healthy behavior “summary scores” had a 58 percent lower death rate than those in the bottom 40 percent.

Five self-reported healthy behaviors were assessed at the start of the study: physical activity, not smoking, higher healthy eating index, moderate alcohol intake (1-2 drinks per week), and maintaining weight or trying to lose weight in the past 12 months.

“Among the healthy behaviors studied, regular, moderate to vigorous physical activity was most protective for those with diabetes,” said Saydah, a senior scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.

Moderate to vigorous physical activity significantly reduced the risk of dying in both adults with and without diabetes, whereas moderate alcohol use, was only protective only in people with diabetes.

In diabetes-free adults, current smoking and fewer healthy eating habits were both linked to increased risk of death, whereas the impact of diet on death in people with diabetes was inconclusive.

“These results provide information to health care providers and the general public on stressing the importance of ... lifestyle factors such as physical activity in delaying mortality,” Saydah said.