LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates Weekly Message
Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.

Metabolic Syndrome

I've recently returned from a three-day conference dedicated to identification of major risk factors, life-habit risk factors, and emerging risk factors that constitute a condition called the metabolic syndrome. I'd been introduced to the topic years ago when I started reading about Syndrome X in the medical newsletters that cross my desk. The media soon made the information more mainstream calling it by its more common name, insulin resistance. Now my mind is swimming as I continue to sort through the in depth information provided by leading research and treatment specialists who lectured at the event.

Metabolic syndrome is a pre-diabetic state which seriously threatens the health of a nation where our population continues to get heavier and heavier. Young inactive children and inactive adults are most prone to acquiring the characteristic factors that produce this diagnosis. If you go out to dinner with three friends, chances are one of you would have this increasingly common syndrome.

The first warning sign you may have this potentially life threatening disease is an abdominal measurement that exceeds 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. An abdominal measurement is not a waist measurement. It's the circumferential measurement you make parallel to the floor at the level where the protruding bones between your waist and hip are located. If this measurement is high don't miss your annual physical. Your doctor will take your blood pressure and send you to the lab where a fasting blood draw will provide additional information about your triglyceride, high density lipoprotein, low density lipoprotein, insulin resistance and an assessment that reports if your body is in an inflammatory state. The diagnosis would be based on these results. In short you need at least three of the following:

  • 1. high abdominal obesity
  • 2. a triglyceride over 150
  • 3. An HDL cholesterol of less than 40 for men or 50 for women
  • 4. Blood pressure that is more than 130/85
  • 5. Fasting glucose that is more than 110

The inflammation test (known as hsCRP) is a marker for the heart disease that can result from these abnormal values. In short, although metabolic syndrome is described as a pre-diabetic state (Type II Diabetes), the diagnosis is also a predictor for a high risk of cardiac disease because the two go hand-in-hand.

The good news is that a change in lifestyle can reverse most the risk factors for the disease. Although many doctors immediately provide prescriptions for miracle drugs known as statins that prevent the proliferation of plaque causing LDL cholesterol, a regular exercise program-with a focus of 30 minutes of activity a day-was the first line of treatment recommended at the conference which focused on treating populations that have the highest risk-Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanics. (There is a genetic component present in these ethnic groups.)

My years in pharmacy and graduate school, lengthy association with a nutritional biochemist, and, lately working side by side with prestigious physicians who are lipid specialists paid off. I found myself mesmerized and eager to understand pathophysiology, diabetic dyslipidemia, atherogensis and metabolic pathways and the risk, diagnosis and treatment options for Type II Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The event affirmed for me, once again, that the body is indeed miraculous, sophisticated and, best of all, responsive to the regular exercise, healthy diet and lifestyle management strategies-the message I've enjoyed teaching for so many years.

In future newsletters I'll share more about how you can be proactive about your health-especially since most of us are getting older and too many of us gaining inches around our middles. You'll learn about the over the counter drugs and supplements that can keep heart disease at bay, how to keep a celebratory meal from clogging your arteries and more. Meantime, get a pedometer (See for the best deals) and begin a progressive walking program that leads to 10,000 steps a day. When you can't log that many steps, use the stairs, dig in your garden, park in the outskirts of the mall, toss out the remote control on the TV (if you must watch) and do your own housekeeping. It pays off.

Weekly Messages Lifestyles

LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates
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