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‘Three highs’ a health threat in Taiwan
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More than half of Taiwan’s middle-aged population, those aged between 40 and 64, have at least one of the “three highs” — high blood pressure, high blood lipids or high blood sugar — and an unhealthy waist size, the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) said, adding that more than 30 percent also have metabolic syndrome.

The HPA, the Taiwan Millennium Health Foundation and local health departments are cooperating to encourage people to regularly measure their waist circumference and keep it at a healthy size — no more than 90cm for adult men and no more than 80cm for adult women.

Taichung Veterans General Hospital superintendent Sheu Huey-herng said on Tuesday that hormonal changes can slow down metabolism in middle-aged people, leading to visceral fat accumulation, increased insulin resistance and larger waist size.

Aging and Chronic Disease Control Division official Lee Hui-lan said that people with an oversized waist are at higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a medical term for having at least three of five medical conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high serum triglycerides, abdominal obesity and low serum high-density lipoprotein, Lee said.

People with metabolic syndrome are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes — about six times the risk of diabetes, four times the risk of hypertension, three times the risk of high blood lipids, and two times the risk of a heart attack or stroke compared with people without metabolic syndrome, she said.

The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age, Lee said, adding that 21.8 percent of men aged between 19 and 44 years have the syndrome, and 39.7 percent of men between 45 and 64.

However, the prevalence increases faster with age for women, with only 9 percent aged between 19 and 44 having the syndrome, and 32.7 percent between 45 and 64, she added.

Sheu said a large waist circumference is a red flag for excessive visceral fat and metabolic syndrome, so measuring waist size regularly helps people be more aware of their health and the risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases.

The HPA suggests people eat less fat, sugar, salt and eat more fiber, and to exercise regularly — up to 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes per day, five days a week — to prevent metabolic syndrome.

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