Targeting Metabolic Syndrome to Treat Multiple Signs of Aging

Jun. 3, 2014

A recent study by University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry researchers published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry begins to unravel the relationship between metabolic syndrome, frailty and cognition. The authors found that having metabolic syndrome significantly increased the chances of becoming physically frailer and slower in cognitive abilities, such as slower in recalling something that happened half an hour ago.

imageMetabolic syndrome is defined as a group of conditions including increased blood sugar level, high blood pressure and high levels of “bad” cholesterol. It puts individuals at greater risk of cardiovascular problems, diabetes and obesity. The incidence of metabolic syndrome ranges between 23 and 46 percent of adults in middle and old age. What is not known is whether metabolic syndrome affects other aspects of aging like cognition and/or frailty.

Feng (Vankee) Lin, Ph.D., affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and School of Nursing, conducted the study with researchers from the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Science. The authors selected an equal number of men and women from a national database and the average age was 63 years.

Individuals were scored on five frailty parameters: Physical inactivity, weakness, exhaustion, unintentional weight loss and slowness. Metabolic syndrome was scored by measuring abdominal obesity, triglyceride level, “good” cholesterol (HDL), “bad” cholesterol (LDL), blood pressure and fasting glucose levels. Cognition was measured by both routine tasks as well as memory recall of past incidents. Having metabolic syndrome increased the risk of frailty incidence by 23 percent. Furthermore, having metabolic syndrome significantly increased the association between cognitive dysfunction and frailty incidence.

Currently, there is a lot of buzz around aging research to develop single interventions that can stop or even reverse the multiple deteriorations observed in aging. The links found among cognition, metabolic syndrome and frailty in this study, though early, point to metabolic syndrome as a potential target to avert multiple signs of aging.