Physical Activity Reduces Mortality in People With Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a term used for a group of risk factors that, if present together in a person, increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It is also known as Syndrome X or Insulin Resistance Syndrome. A person is said to be suffering from metabolic syndrome if he is positive for at least three of the following:
• A blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg
• A fasting blood sugar level greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL
• A large waist circumference
• Low HDL cholesterol levels
• Triglycerides greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL
Lifestyle changes including diet and regular exercise to bring about weight loss is recommended for metabolic syndrome. Medications may be required in some cases.
Currently, it is recommended that every person should exercise for at least 30 minutes per day for five days a week, if the exercise is of moderate intensity. If one opts for more vigorous forms of exercise, the duration may be reduced to 20 minutes three days a week. A combination of the two may also be adopted. Additional activities to maintain or increase muscle strength and endurance should be done for at least two days each week.
A study was carried out to assess the benefit of physical activity in reducing deaths in adult patients of metabolic syndrome in Norway. A total of 13,449 people with metabolic syndrome and 36,890 without metabolic syndrome were included in the study. Deaths due to any cause as well as deaths due to cardiovascular diseases (diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels like heart attack and stroke) were recorded. Serum glucose levels were obtained. Physical activity was recorded based on data provided by patients and was classified as light or hard physical activity. Light and hard physical activity were also combined and graded as inactive, low, moderate and high physical activity.
The researchers found that metabolic syndrome affected 23% participants younger than 65 years of age and 44% participants 65 years or older. In the younger age group, 53% individuals less than 65 years of age reported a level of exercise that was equal to or higher than current recommendations, whereas, 41% of older individuals reported the same. Only 9% of the younger age group were inactive, whereas 19% were inactive in the older age group.
Individuals with metabolic syndrome were followed up for an average period of 10 years. During this time, 1,839 deaths were observed among the patients with metabolic syndrome. Deaths due to cardiovascular causes accounted for 26% of deaths in the younger age group and 43% in the older age group. Metabolic syndrome was associated with deaths due to cardiovascular causes as well as with deaths from all causes in the younger age group, whereas such association was not observed with the older age group.
The study also found that the risk of dying from all causes as well as cardiovascular causes was lower in case of more active people irrespective of their age. Even people with low levels of physical activity seemed to reap the benefits of activity as compared to those who were inactive.
The study thus indicates that physical activity helps to increase the lifespan of people suffering from metabolic syndrome, and hence they should be encouraged to lead an active life.
1. Stensvold D, Nauman J, Nilsen TIL, Wisloff U, Slordahl SA, Vatten L. Even low level of physical activity is associated with reduced mortality among people with metabolic syndrome, a population based study (the HUNT 2 study, Norway). BMC Medicine 2011, 9:109
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