Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health issues that frequently predict the development of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
People with metabolic syndrome have three or more of the following:
- High blood pressure, defined as greater than 130 systolic pressure or 85 diastolic pressure
- Excess fat around the waist in proportion to height and muscle, also called “abdominal obesity”
- High triglycerides
- High blood glucose while fasting
- Low HDL cholesterol, defined as less than fifty mg/dL for a woman or forty for a man
Age is a major factor
The American Heart Association estimates that twenty-three percent of the population has metabolic syndrome on any given day. But the chances of developing it increase with age, weight, and inactivity.
By some estimates, thirty-one percent of people over the age of sixty-five have metabolic syndrome (MetS). The risks of developing MetS increase with age, particularly for women. In the elderly, the most common symptoms were high blood pressure and obesity.
You should not hesitate to ask your mother or father’s doctor to test for metabolic syndrome if your parent has one or more of the above symptoms.
Treatment and prevention
Diagnosing metabolic syndrome is important because this syndrome so often leads to hardened arteries, heart attacks, strokes, and type 2 diabetes.
In many cases, lifestyle modifications may be enough to bring obesity, blood sugar, and blood pressure under control. The treatment for metabolic syndrome involves the same changes that are involved in its prevention.
Seniors with metabolic syndrome frequently need to lose weight. This can be accomplished through calorie reduction and an increase in exercise. Dietary changes should eliminate refined sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pastries, and sugary cereals.
Beverages made with sugar, including sodas, cocktails, wine, and beer need to be replaced with water, unsweetened tea, and the occasional cup of black coffee, if tolerated. Fresh fruit, including berries, apples, and bananas should replace candy, cake, and ice cream.
People with metabolic syndrome should exercise at least thirty minutes a day. Very overweight patients will need to start out slow, perhaps with walking or water aerobics. For patients with obesity, the exercise regime will need to increase in intensity over several weeks.
Losing weight may reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol, and high blood sugar. But if it does not, a doctor may prescribe medications that will improve these conditions. Each symptom needs to be treated individually.
If you have not hired a senior care agency or individual to help your mother or father, this will be a good time to carefully consider it. Senior care aides can help your parents shop for the right food, prepare low-calorie meals that are also low in trans fats and sugar. And they can help your parent monitor blood pressure and blood sugar at home.
In brief, metabolic syndrome often presents as obesity and high blood pressure in the elderly. The good news, however, is that it is frequently reversible with lifestyle changes and perhaps with small doses of medication for cholesterol and blood pressure. Don’t hesitate to ask your mother or father’s doctor to test for metabolic syndrome.