Metabolic syndrome isn’t a disease or a condition, rather it is a collection of risk factors that can lead to more serious problems like diabetes and heart disease. The risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome are high blood pressure, cholesterol levels that are unhealthy, excess fat around the abdomen, and high blood sugar levels.
When a person has at least three of these risk factors, they may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. The bad news is that even when a person is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and follows their doctor’s advice, they are still at an increased risk for heart disease (though managing symptoms does lower the risk). The good news is that metabolic syndrome is preventable.
If you’re concerned about your aging parent’s risk for metabolic syndrome, here are some ways it can be prevented.
Change the Way Your Parent Eats
If your parent is not eating a healthy diet, making the change could prevent metabolic syndrome. The American Heart Association recommends eating a diet that includes whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables. They suggest staying away from processed foods and those foods that are high in sugar or salt.
Help Your Parent Get Active
Many older adults slow down and don’t get the exercise they need to stay healthy. Adults should try to get in a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Exercise can be broken up into small intervals throughout the day to reach the 150-minute goal. Walking is a good place to start, but your parent might enjoy a structured class designed for seniors where they can also socialize with other people.
Encourage Your Parent to Lose Weight
If your parent is overweight, encourage them to work on dropping some weight. Eating a healthy diet and exercising will help. Setting small weight loss goals over shorter periods of time can make losing weight easier than if your parent focuses on their overall goal.
Start Your Parent on a Plan to Quit Smoking
If your parent currently smokes, help them to quit. There are medications and smoking cessation programs available. Your parent’s doctor can recommend a plan for your parent.
Schedule Regular Doctor Appointments
Since many of the risk factors that are included in metabolic syndrome don’t have noticeable symptoms, it’s important for your parent to see their doctor regularly for screenings. The doctor will check your parent’s blood pressure and conduct tests for other risk factors.
A home health care provider can help your parent in their efforts to prevent metabolic syndrome. Home health care providers can help your parent to cook health snacks and meals. They can also drive your parent to exercise classes, go for walks with them, or just sit by while they exercise so that they feel safe doing so. Home health care providers can also celebrate your parent’s successes with them, which can go a long way toward meeting long-term goals.