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Approved Research

Lifestyle factors as predictors of developing or dying from chronic diseases and COVID

Principal Investigator: Professor Amy Kirkham
Approved Research ID: 105102
Approval date: December 12th 2023

Lay summary

Approximately 70% of deaths each year are due to chronic conditions worldwide. However, individuals often live with these chronic conditions for decades prior, which can have substantial costs to the individual as well as the healthcare system.

Since the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, there has been substantial death and disability worldwide associated with this condition. However, given how relatively new this disease is, there is comparatively little known about how best to reduce your risk of getting it or dying from it.

Changes to lifestyle behaviours (e.g., diet, physical activity) is the primary way that individuals are recommended to lower their risk of disease (both chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, and non-chronic diseases such as COVID) and death. However, current research into these lifestyle factors is often only able to focus on one or two lifestyle factors at once, even though there are often many factors that work together to determine health and disease or death risk.

Also, changing your lifestyle is not the only factor that improves health, rather, it is the way that lifestyle changes can impact other factors that are associated with health that can have a big impact on the risk of disease or death. For example, the amount of fat that you have in certain parts of your body (e.g., heart, pancreas, etc.) is strongly related to disease risk, regardless of how much fat you have overall. Therefore, understanding how much differences in lifestyle factors impact disease risk themselves, and how much these lifestyle factors result in differences in where fat is which also has an impact on health, is necessary to design effective lifestyle interventions to improve health.

The goal of this research is to determine:

  1. What groupings of 20 lifestyle factors are most strongly associated with disease risk and death,
  2. What effect lifestyle factors have directly, and indirectly through the impact it has on fat in certain places in your body (i.e., ectopic fat), on the risk of disease and death.

This project will take up to 3 years, and findings from these studies will be provided to healthcare providers to help guide them on which lifestyle factors should be addressed to have the biggest impact on health. In addition, information from these studies will be used to develop new lifestyle interventions to lower the risk of developing or dying from several different diseases.