by Elisabeth Anumu
[Posted at Wikimedia Commons]
As a medical resident at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, I am currently participating in a quality assurance and improvement program for screening patients for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is one of the most common issues facing Americans; currently, this condition affects at least one in five adults, and a higher prevalence is seen in people as they age.
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical conditions that together increase the risk of a person having cardiovascular and other diseases. Metabolic risk factors include abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, high blood pressure, and disorders such as buildup of high LDL cholesterol and elevated triglycerides. Other factors include prothrombotic state and proinflammatory state, which indicate elevated levels of certain activators or proteins in the blood. Generally, individuals who possess three of the metabolic risk factors are considered highly susceptible to metabolic syndrome.
Medical experts do not afford all risk factors equal weight. A dominant risk factor is abdominal obesity, with a waist circumference of greater than 35 inches in females and 40 inches in males often indicating present or future metabolic syndrome. Another major risk factor is insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s natural insulin hormone becomes less effective at reducing blood sugars. For people of Asian descent, who tend to have high insulin resistance, the waist circumference limit is often lower.
The two most common complications associated with metabolic syndrome are diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is due to sustained high levels of glucose. Cardiovascular disease, often attributable to a combination of high blood pressure and cholesterol buildup, can often lead to stroke or heart attack. Fortunately, metabolic syndrome is often preventable and treatable through activities such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and losing weight. The American Heart Association, Inc., accessible at americanheart.org, is an excellent source of online educational materials on the subject.