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Prevent metabolic syndrome in menopause: don’t retire

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In these tough economic times, many menopausal women who would choose to retire from the workforce if they had their druthers must keep working to maintain their standard of living. In addition to the income, a new study has found that women who continue to be employed after menopause have a significantly less risk of developing the metabolic syndrome. The findings were published by Korean researchers in the March edition of the journal Menopause.

The metabolic syndrome comprises a group of risk factors that raises one’s risk for cardiovascular disease (i.e., heart attack and stroke) as well as other health problems such as diabetes. The study authors conducted a study to access the association between employment status and metabolic syndrome in adult Korean women; both premenopausal and postmenopausal women were evaluated.

The study group comprised 5,256 Korean women (3,141 premenopausal women and 2,115 postmenopausal women) who were enrolled in the 2007-2009 Korean National Health Examination and Nutrition Survey. Based on a self-reported questionnaire, the women were divided into three groups depending upon employment status: unemployed, employed part time, and employed full time. A modified Asian criterion based on a standardized definition of metabolic syndrome was adopted. The data was subjected to statistical analysis.

The investigators found that the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the premenopausal women was 14.5% in the unemployed group, 11.8% in the part-time group, and 12.7% in the full-time employment group were 14.5%, 11.8%, and 12.7%. In the postmenopausal women, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome was 54.9% in the unemployed group, 44.0% in the part-time employment group, and 41.8% in the full-time employment group. Compared with the unemployed group, the decreased risk of metabolic syndrome in premenopausal women was0.79 for the part-time employment group and 0.80 for the full-time employment group. Compared with the unemployed group, the decreased risk of metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women was 0.67 for the part-time employment group and 0.66 for the full-time employment group. These results were found after adjusting for factors such as age, inflammatory marker, socioeconomic status, and lifestyle factors.

The authors concluded that employment appears to be significantly related to a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women, but not in premenopausal women. However, they cautioned that the study may not have had adequate statistical power to detect relations in premenopausal women. They recommended that further research should be conducted to clarify the menopause-specific relationship between employment status and metabolic syndrome risk.

The term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body’s normal functioning. Risk factors are traits, conditions, or habits that increase your chance of developing a disease. The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. One may have any one of these risk factors by itself; however, they tend to occur together. One must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

  • A big belly: This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
  • A high triglyceride level (or you are taking medicine to treat high triglycerides): Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you are taking medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol): HDL is sometimes termed “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure (or you are taking medicine to treat high blood pressure): High blood pressure can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup.
  • High fasting blood sugar (or you are taking medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

Your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke increases with the number of metabolic risk factors you have. In general, a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who does not have metabolic syndrome. In addition to those described above, other risk factors can also increase your risk for heart disease. For example, a high LDL cholesterol level and smoking are major risk factors for heart disease, but they are not part of metabolic syndrome.

Having even one risk factor raises your risk for heart disease. You should try to control every risk factor you can to reduce your risk. The risk of having metabolic syndrome is closely related to overweight and obesity and a lack of physical activity. Insulin resistance also may increase your risk for metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body cannot use its insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it is used for energy. Insulin resistance can lead to high blood sugar levels, and it’s closely linked to overweight and obesity.

Genetics (ethnicity and family history) and older age are other factors that may play a role in causing metabolic syndrome. Due to the increased prevalence of obesity in the US, metabolic syndrome is becoming more common. In the future, metabolic syndrome may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease. It is possible to prevent or delay metabolic syndrome, primarily with lifestyle changes. A healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment. Successfully controlling metabolic syndrome requires long-term effort and teamwork with your healthcare providers.



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