Healthy Lifestyle Habits May Be
Associated With Reduced Risk Of Chronic Disease
Four healthy lifestyle
factors—never smoking, maintaining a healthy weight,
exercising regularly and following a healthy diet—together
appear to be associated with as much as an 80 percent reduction in the
risk of developing the most common and deadly chronic diseases,
according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the
cancer and diabetes—chronic diseases that together account
for most deaths—are largely preventable, according to
background information in the article. "An impressive body of research
has implicated modifiable lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical
activity, diet and body weight in the causes of these diseases," the
To further describe the
reduction in risk associated with these factors, Earl S. Ford, M.D.,
M.P.H., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and
colleagues assessed data from 23,513 German adults age 35 to 65. At the
beginning of the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and
Nutrition–Potsdam (EPIC-Potsdam) study—between 1994
and 1998—participants completed an assessment of their body
weight and height, a personal interview that included questions about
diseases, a questionnaire on sociodemographic and lifestyle
characteristics and a food frequency questionnaire.
Their responses were assessed
for adherence to four healthy lifestyle factors: never smoking, having
a body mass index lower than 30, exercising for at least three and a
half hours per week and following healthy dietary principles (for
example, having a diet with high consumption of fruits and vegetables
while limiting meat consumption). Follow-up questionnaires were
administered every two to three years.
Most participants had one to
three of these health factors, fewer than 4 percent had zero healthy
factors and 9 percent had all four factors. Over an average of 7.8
years of follow-up, 2,006 participants developed new cases of diabetes
(3.7 percent), heart attack (0.9 percent), stroke (0.8percent) or
cancer (3.8 percent).
After adjusting for age, sex,
education level and occupation, individuals with more healthy lifestyle
factors were less likely to develop chronic diseases. Participants who
had all four factors at the beginning of the study had a 78 percent
lower risk of developing any of the chronic diseases during the
follow-up period than those who had none of the healthy factors. The
four factors were associated with a 93 percent reduced risk of
diabetes, 81 percent reduced risk of heart attack, 50 percent reduced
risk of stroke and 36 percent reduced risk of cancer.
The largest reduction in risk
was associated with having a BMI lower than 30, followed by never
smoking, at least 3.5 hours of physical activity and then adhering to
good dietary principles.
"Our results reinforce
current public health recommendations to avoid smoking, to maintain a
healthy weight, to engage in physical activity appropriately and to eat
adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables and foods containing whole
grains and to partake of red meat prudently," the authors write.
"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."
If you're working in a
stressful environment, you and your colleagues may be communicating
tension to one another without even realizing it.
For more information on the
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, visit www.cdc.gov.