Lowering a person’s risk of diabetes does not have to be all or nothing, based on new data out today.

It is well understood that making healthy lifestyle choices – regarding diet, body weight, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption – can individually decrease the risk of developing diabetes.

However, it was unclear how combining these lifestyle choices would affect the risk.

For ten years, researchers followed over 200,000 men and women, initially between the ages 50 to 71, and found that with each healthy lifestyle factor they improved, the lower the risk of diabetes.

Those with the best lifestyle factors were about 80 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those with the worst lifestyle factors.

But, even adopting a few changes helped substantially.

This study is also one of the first to show that combined lifestyle factors can affect diabetes risk, even in older adults.

Promising news for the black community

African-Americans are affected by diabetes two times more than whites, and die from it twice as often.

While there is a genetic component to the disparity, lifestyle choices immensely affect diabetes risk.

Type 2 diabetes or “adult diabetes” is heavily correlated with obesity. With black children becoming increasingly obese, the numbers of children with diabetes has increased 33 percent.

Black diabetics are also more likely to suffer the common complications such as blindness, heart disease, end-stage kidney disease and amputations. Many are unaware they have diabetes until these complications occur.

This new research suggests that those who live in low socioeconomic areas with little access to healthy foods or outdoors activities can still make an impact on their health by modifying their other choices.