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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2009 Jan;64(1):96-102. doi: 10.1093/gerona/gln005. Epub 2009 Jan 20.

Metabolic syndrome and physical decline in older persons: results from the Health, Aging And Body Composition Study.

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  • 1EMGO Institute/Department of Psychiatry, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



The metabolic syndrome includes dyslipidemia, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and hypertension and is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and cerebrovascular disease (CVD), but consequences beyond these outcomes have not been examined extensively. We investigated whether metabolic abnormalities have independent consequences on loss of mobility function of older persons.


Data are from 2,920 men and women, 70-79 years, participating in the Health ABC study without mobility limitations at baseline. Metabolic syndrome was defined as > or =3 of the following: (a) waist circumference >102 (men) or >88 cm (women); (b) triglycerides > or =150 mg/dL; (c) high-density lipoprotein cholesterol <40 mg/dL (men) or <50 mg/dL (women); (d) blood pressure > or =130/85 mm Hg or antihypertensive medication; and (d) fasting glucose > or =110 mg/dL or antidiabetic medication. Mobility limitation was defined as difficulty or inability walking (1/4) mile or climbing 10 steps during two consecutive semiannual assessments over 4.5 years.


The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was 38.6%. The metabolic syndrome was associated with an adjusted relative risk (RR) of 1.46 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.30-1.63) for developing mobility limitations. The risk increased when more metabolic syndrome components were present (p trend >.001). All metabolic syndrome components were significantly associated with incident mobility limitations with the highest RRs for abdominal obesity (RR = 1.54, 95% CI = 1.35-1.75) and hyperglycemia (RR = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.27-1.63). Findings were unchanged when persons with baseline, or incident, CVD, stroke, or diabetes were excluded.


Metabolic syndrome abnormalities, especially abdominal obesity and hyperglycemia, are predictive of mobility limitations in the elderly, independent of CVD or diabetes.

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