Madison, Wisconsin-based pharmacist and women’s healthcare expert Marla Ahlgrimm answers your questions about how weight, education, income, and exercise play a role in a woman’s risk of metabolic syndrome.
Q: What is metabolic syndrome?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Metabolic syndrome isn’t one specific condition. Instead, it is the compounded occurrence of high blood glucose levels, obesity, elevated cholesterol, and increased blood pressure. This cluster of conditions increases a woman’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Q: What are the symptoms of metabolic syndrome?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Unfortunately, many of the disorders associated with metabolic syndrome don’t present with outward symptoms. However, having a larger than proportionate waistline is a visible sign. Women with high blood sugar may experience increased thirst, blurred vision, fatigue, and issues with urination.
Q: Does a woman’s weight affect her risk?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Overweight and obese women are 4 to 12 times more at risk than normal-weight women. Additionally, women who fail to exercise regularly nearly double their risk of metabolic syndrome.
Q: What steps can a woman take to decrease her weight as she approaches menopause?
Marla Ahlgrimm: As a woman ages, her metabolism naturally decreases. If she continues to eat her regular diet without increasing physical activity she will gain weight. It’s best to keep moving and make a conscious effort to choose healthy foods at each meal. Most experts recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
Q: Are well-educated women less likely to contract metabolic syndrome?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes, a recent study conducted by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) concluded that women who failed to graduate high school increased their risk of metabolic syndrome by 1.4 times. The researchers also found that low income women were nearly 2x more likely than middle to upper class women to report metabolic syndrome.