According to new research on lupus, a disease traditionally believed to be primarily due to genetic risk factors, women could potentially cut their risk of the disease in half by following several healthy lifestyle habits.
The researchers rated 185,962 women, including 203 women with lupus, and used the Healthy Lifestyle Index Score (HLIS) to measure how healthy the participants’ lifestyle was. Compared to women with no or one positive lifestyle factor, those with at least four of the following healthy lifestyle factors had the lowest risk of lupus:
- No history of smoking or no smoking for more than four years
- No overweight or obesity
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- Healthy eating
- Regular exercise
The study found that a healthier lifestyle was associated with an overall lower risk of lupus – the risk decreased by 19% for each additional healthy lifestyle factor. The researchers also concluded that in women who may already be at risk for lupus, healthy behavior could reduce their risk by as much as 47.7%.
Notably, better HLIS scores were also associated with a lower risk of dsDNA-positive lupus, a more severe subtype of lupus characterized by positive tests for anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) antibodies. These dsDNA antibodies belong to a group of self-attacking antinuclear antibodies (ANA).
“This study sends an important public health message that we should promote an overall healthy lifestyle to prevent the development of lupus,” says Dr. May Choi, Gary S. Gilkeson Career Development Awardee from the Lupus Foundation of America and principal investigator on the study.
More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between lifestyle and lupus risk. For those living with lupus today, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an important way to feel good about yourself. Explore the Lupus Foundation of America’s many resources on living with lupus, from quitting smoking and managing stress to focusing on diet and exercise. The Lupus Foundation of America supported Dr. Choi’s previous lupus research through her Gary S. Gilkeson Career Development Award. Click here to learn more about the Gary S. Gilkeson Career Development Award and here to read more about the work of Dr. Choi to learn.
Read the study