Metabolic syndrome, a killer combination

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It’s not often that I make broad generalizations, but I’m about to do just that.
I was out shopping in a number of malls this past week and being a people-watcher, there’s something I couldn’t avoid noticing – a lot of Americans are fat.
About 66 percent of all Americans are overweight – that’s about 200 million of us, and 20 percent of that number or 40 million are morbidly obese.
The medical community has now identified a problem, a syndrome actually, that is directly associated with our overweight population. It’s called metabolic syndrome. Metabolic simply refers to the body’s own biochemical metabolism process that is part of normal body function within all of us. But with the syndrome, risks are added, meaning that there are habits, traits and conditions that you have that increase the chances of your developing a disease.
Not surprisingly, being overweight without proper medical oversight isn’t the only health issue facing people carrying around those extra pounds. Quite often this segment of the population also has one or more of what have been identified as five increased risk factors including:
1) High blood pressure, which can lead to plaque build-up and damage your heart;
2) A physical body design that includes a large waistline and apple-like shape with excess belly fat increases your chance for heart disease;
3) Blood test results that indicate a high triglyceride level which is a sign of increase fat in the blood;
4) High fasting blood sugar levels that frequently indicate the presence of diabetes; and
5) A low HDL cholesterol level – that’s the “good” cholesterol, and therefore have a higher risk for heart disease.
To qualify as having metabolic syndrome, an individual must have three of those five risk factors. If tests indicate that you have at least three of those risk factors, not only do you have metabolic syndrome, but your risk for diabetes, heart disease and strokes is now substantially higher than people that don’t have metabolic syndrome.
If you have metabolic syndrome, you are twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times more likely to develop diabetes as a person that doesn’t have metabolic syndrome, and it’s even worse if you smoke.
For those of you congratulating yourselves for not having three risk factors of metabolic syndrome, not so fast, even one risk factor raises your risk for heart disease.
Keep in mind that even the healthiest among us aren’t immune from these diseases. Like it or not, we are products of our genetics, ethnicity, age and family history. Sometimes you just can’t win, but you can take the steps necessary to stay in the game and give yourself the best chance of living a longer, higher-quality life with simple changes to habits and maintaining a lifelong commitment to wellness that includes working relationship with healthcare providers.
While it’s not always easy to be consistent, and the urge to skip a day or eat that donut is strong, when it comes to starting and maintaining a life of quality, I’m a big fan of a recent advertising campaign theme of the sporting goods manufacturer NIKE – Just Do It!
Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert on issues of geriatrics and aging. He’s in private practice in Henderson and Polk counties. He is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available on and at the Polk County Senior Center.
His podcasts can be heard weekly at Contact him at 828-696-9799 or by email at:

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