Risk factors for non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus requiring treatment in the elderly

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1994 Dec;42(12):1235-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1994.tb06503.x.


Objective: To examine the relationship of possible modifiable risk factors, including obesity, physical activity level, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, and thiazide diuretic use with the development of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) requiring treatment among a large cohort of community-dwelling elderly.

Setting: The East Boston Senior Health Project, one of four components of the National Institute on Aging-sponsored Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly (EPESE).

Participants: Residents of East Boston who were 65 years of age or older.

Measurements: We performed a prospective cohort study with follow-up over two consecutive 3-year time periods beginning in 1982-1983. The main outcome measure was the occurrence of NIDDM, defined as new treatment with a hypoglycemic agent. A total of 2737 study participants contributed 4682 3-year intervals for analysis.

Main results: NIDDM requiring hypoglycemic therapy occurred in 185 participants over the duration of the study. High body mass index (> 26 kg/m2) (adjusted odds ratio 2.4, 95% confidence interval 1.3-4.4) and low physical activity level (adjusted odds ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.0-2.1) were significant predictors of NIDDM in a multiple logistic regression model adjusting for age, sex, blood pressure, and self-report of "high blood sugar" moderate alcohol consumption (0.5-<1 ounce per day) had an inverse relation to NIDDM of borderline significance (adjusted odds ratio 0.4, 95% confidence interval 0.2-1.0). Those receiving one or more non-thiazide antihypertensive agents had a higher risk of developing NIDDM in a model including age, sex, body mass index, various antihypertensive regimens, physical activity level, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, and self-report of "high blood sugar." Thiazide diuretic therapy alone or in combination with another antihypertensive was not associated with NIDDM.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest a positive relationship of obesity and low physical activity level with the development of NIDDM requiring treatment in elderly persons. The inverse association of borderline significance between moderate alcohol use and NIDDM deserves further study. Thiazide diuretic therapy conferred no excess risk for developing NIDDM in this older population although selection factors in the choice of antihypertensive therapy may partially explain the absence of a thiazide effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Benzothiadiazines
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Diuretics
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sodium Chloride Symporter Inhibitors / therapeutic use


  • Benzothiadiazines
  • Diuretics
  • Sodium Chloride Symporter Inhibitors