TV viewing and sedentary lifestyle in teens linked to metabolic syndrome in adulthood

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
metabolic syndrome, diabetes, strok, heart diseas, TV watching
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Metabolic syndrome is a name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that the condition affects 25% of the US population; furthermore, the prevalence increases with age. A new study has found that TV viewing and low leisure-time physical activity while one is a teenager, independently predict the development of the metabolic syndrome in mid-adulthood. The findings were published online by Swedish and Australian researchers on January 22 in the journal Diabetes Care.

The goal of the study was to determine whether (TV) viewing and low leisure-time physical activity in adolescence predict the metabolic syndrome in mid-adulthood. The investigators assessed TV viewing habits and participation in leisure-time physical activity at age 16 years by self-administered questionnaires in a population-based cohort in Northern Sweden. The presence of the metabolic syndrome at age 43 years was ascertained in 888 participants (82% of the baseline sample) using the International Diabetes Federation criteria.

The researchers found that the overall prevalence of the metabolic syndrome at age 43 years was 26.9%. Adjusted odds ratio for the metabolic syndrome at age 43 years was 2.14 (2.14-fold increased risk) for those who reported “watching several shows a day” versus “one show/week” or less and 2.31 for leisure-time physical activity “several times/month” or less compared with “daily” leisure-time physical activity at age 16 years. TV viewing at age 16 years was associated with central obesity, low HDL cholesterol, and hypertension at age 43 years; in contrast, low leisure-time physical activity at age 16 years was associated with central obesity and triglycerides at age 43 years.

The authors concluded that both TV viewing and low leisure-time physical activity in adolescence independently predicted the metabolic syndrome and several of the metabolic syndrome components in mid-adulthood. They note that their findings suggest that reduced TV viewing in adolescence, in addition to regular physical activity, may contribute to cardiometabolic health later in life.

Their comment that TV watching and physical activity habits independently predicted the metabolic syndrome indicates that these activities were linked to different metabolic-syndrome components. They explained that this possibility means that “different strategies may need to be adopted” with regard to interventions targeting sedentary behavior, such as TV viewing, and those aiming to increase leisure-time physical activity. The researchers note that their study supports previous findings and provides new evidence in regard to this topic.

Metabolic syndrome is a name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. All of the syndrome’s risk factors are related to obesity. In addition to the risk factors mentioned in this study, the two most important risk factors are:

  • Extra weight around the middle of the body (central obesity). The body may be described as “apple-shaped.”
  • Insulin resistance, in which the body cannot use insulin effectively. Insulin is needed to help control the amount of sugar in the body.

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Insulin helps blood sugar (glucose) enter cells. If you have insulin resistance, your body does not respond to insulin, and blood sugar cannot get into cells. As a result, the body produces more and more insulin. Insulin and blood sugar levels rise, affecting kidney function and raising the level of blood fats, such as triglycerides.

According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, metabolic syndrome is present if you have three or more of the following signs:

  • Blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL
  • Large waist circumference (length around the waist): Men, 40 inches or more; Women, 35 inches or more
  • Low HDL cholesterol: Men, under 40 mg/dL; Women, under 50 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL

Tests that may be done to diagnose metabolic syndrome include:

  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Glucose test
  • HDL cholesterol level
  • LDL cholesterol level
  • Total cholesterol level
  • Triglyceride leve

Tests that may be done to diagnose metabolic syndrome include:

  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Glucose test
  • HDL cholesterol level
  • LDL cholesterol level
  • Total cholesterol level
  • Triglyceride level

The goal of treatment is to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. A physician will recommend lifestyle changes or medicines to help reduce your blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and blood sugar.

Recommendations include:

  • Lose weight. The initial goal is to lose between 7 and 10% of your current weight. This generally means that you need to eat 500 - 1,000 fewer calories per day.
  • Get 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, 5 - 7 days per week.
  • Lower your cholesterol using weight loss, exercise, and cholesterol lowering medications, if needed.
  • Lower your blood pressure using weight loss, exercise, and medications, if needed.
  • Some people may need daily low-dose aspirin.
  • People who smoke should quit.

Reference: Diabetes Care

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