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Metabolic Syndrome Signals Serious Health Risk​

It’s not uncommon to open a newspaper or watch TV and see dire warnings about how many Americans are at risk for heart disease or diabetes. Research has found that these two diseases may be linked by a cluster of five “markers” or risk factors called Meta

These five risk factors are:

  • Abdominal obesity – waist measurement of 40 inches or more for men, and 35 inches or more for women
  • High blood pressure – 130/80 or greater
  • High triglycerides – 150 mg/dL or greater
  • Low HDL (the “good” cholesterol) – less than 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women, and
  • High blood sugar – fasting glucose of 110 mg/dL or greater.

People with Four or Five Risk Factors at Higher Risk

“Clinical observations, trials and various explanatory models have been used to link these five risk factors,” says Stephanie Campbell, M.D., a board-certified Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “Some research has suggested that insulin resistance may be an underlying factor. Insulin resistance is the inability of certain organs to respond properly to insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. Also, Metabolic Syndrome has been linked to stroke and kidney disease.”

The clustering of these five factors has become an area of intense research due to the prevalence of heart disease and the rapidly increasing prevalence of diabetes in the American population.

If you have three of these five risk factors, you may be at risk for both heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately, people with four or all five of these risk factors are at a substantially higher risk for the diseases. 

Treatment Focuses on Lowering the Risk

Treatment for the syndrome focuses on lowering the risk factors. “We haven’t found any ‘shortcuts’ when treating Metabolic Syndrome,” says Dr. Campbell. “Regular exercise and a healthy, low-fat, balanced diet are the only things that can help reduce all five risk factors at once. Drugs that lower cholesterol, control blood pressure and control blood sugar can play pivotal roles, but lifestyle changes remain the foundation of targeted therapy.”

Regardless of the treatment, all of the risk factors need to be monitored regularly to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Consult your personal physician if you suspect you may have three or more of these risk factors. 

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Steffanie Campbell, MD, FACP

​As a general internist, my philosophy is holistic care. I consider my patients family members; I attempt to educate them as much as possible to assure informed decisions are made and we engage in shared-decision making.