5 Ways to Help Prevent Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke

Adopting these lifestyle habits can go a long way toward lowering your disease risk.

Two older women in pink taking a morning walk together in the park.

Updated on October 24, 2022.

If you’re trying to reduce your risk of chronic illness, you could run yourself ragged reading all the latest research on disease prevention.

Or, you could keep things simple. Following just a few straightforward strategies could significantly lower your chances of developing conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. It all boils down to these five guidelines:

  1. Say no to cigarettes.
  2. Watch your weight.
  3. Be active.
  4. Stick to a diet focused on produce and whole grains.
  5. Limit your alcohol consumption.

According to a 2020 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, adults between ages 40 and 75 with certain key healthy traits and habits developed chronic disease almost 10 years later than people without those traits. Each had a body mass index (BMI) under 25, and did at least two of the following:

  • Never smoked
  • Drank moderately
  • Got sufficient physical activity

A separate, large European study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine (now known as JAMA Internal Medicine), derived similar results. In addition to never smoking and getting plenty of exercise, having a BMI under 30 and eating a relatively healthy diet—meaning little meat and plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains—helped the most. People who had all four things going for them enjoyed major risk reductions for a range of chronic illnesses.

How to reduce your risk of chronic illness

Of course, following these guidelines is not as easy as it sounds. But don't worry. There are benefits to abiding by two or three. Even following just one of the guidelines can help lower your odds of disease.

But why not shoot for all five?

Here are some tricks and tools that could help you prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke:

Got all that? Great! And if you could use even more convincing, find out how these five important habits may be affecting your RealAge—and learn ways to get healthier today.

Article sources open article sources

Nyberg ST, Singh-Manoux A, et al. Association of Healthy Lifestyle With Years Lived Without Major Chronic Diseases. JAMA Intern Med. 2020 May 1;180(5):760-768.
ES Ford, MM. Bergmann, et al. Healthy Living Is the Best Revenge: Findings From the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition-Potsdam Study. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009; 169 (15): 1355-1362.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Top 4 Tips to Prevent Chronic Diseases. Page last reviewed August 19, 2022.

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