Results of a recent study in Preventive Medicine showed that compared to men, women are at greater risk for comorbid metabolic syndrome, depression and high homocysteine levels, thus prompting researchers to conclude that women must become more active in order to decrease their risk for disease.
Researchers analyzed data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included 1,146 people in various regions. Those studied were older than 20 years old and not pregnant. Participants wore an accelerometer (a device that measures both intensity and frequency of physical activity) for at least four days, ten hours per day to measure physical activity. To measure depression, participants completed a survey and underwent a depression evaluation. Researchers measured homocysteine via non-fasting blood samples. They also measured waist circumference, triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, glucose, folate and vitamin B-12 in order to assess metabolic syndrome.
Defined by the American Heart Association/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, patients have metabolic syndrome when diagnosed with three or more of the following: high waist circumference (≥102 cm for men, ≥88 cm for women), high levels of triglycerides (>150 mg/dL), low levels of HDL cholesterol (<40 mg/dL for men and <50 mg/dL or those taking cholesterol lowering medications), high blood pressure (≥130 mm Hg systolic or ≥85 mm Hg diastolic or those under medication lowering blood pressure) and high fasting glucose levels (≥100 mg/dL or those taking insulin or pills for diabetes). These conditions increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.
Results of the study revealed a stronger association between physical activity and comorbid metabolic syndrome, depression and high homocysteine for women compared to men. Researchers concluded that there was an inverse association between regular exercise and the three co-morbidities. The results prompted researchers to prescribe physical activity not only to reduce the conditions involved with metabolic syndrome, but also to reduce depression, which indirectly reduces metabolic syndrome since depression can aid in forming conditions of metabolic syndrome.
According to the Illinois Women’s Health Registry, when asked how women would classify their levels of activity throughout the day, 16% reported as very active, 59% as moderately active, and 24% as sedentary. At the very minimum, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 21.4 min/day. Female participants included in the study exercised 4.3 minutes less per day than recommended by the CDC, and one in four Illinois women report no exercise. To reduce the chance of metabolic syndrome and the other co-morbidities, women must start exercising more.