Metabolic syndrome currently affects 47 million Americans or almost 25% of the population and those numbers are growing. For menopausal women, metabolic syndrome is a serious health matter yet most patients remain unaware of the danger until it is too late.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that increase your chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. ‘Metabolic’ refers to an internal biochemical process that keeps the body functioning properly.
Many symptoms go unnoticed. Through regular check-ups, your healthcare provider can determine if you have any three of the following risk factors for metabolic syndrome.
1. A waistline measurement of greater than 35 inches in women or 40 inches in men. People who tend to have an apple shaped body – where fat is stored in and around the midsection, compared to a pear shaped body – where fat is stored in the hips, are at greater risk for obesity related conditions.
2. A measured lower than normal HDL cholesterol level of 40 in women, 50 in men. HDL or the ‘good cholesterol’ removes and prevents LDL cholesterol build-up in the arteries.
3. Higher than normal triglyceride levels in your blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
4. Higher than normal blood pressure readings. Blood pressure measures the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. High blood pressure weakens and damages the heart, and contributes to plaque build-up in the arteries.
5. Higher than normal blood fasting sugar levels which affect insulin resistance or a condition where the body does not properly process insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that changes glucose (sugars) into energy. Too much sugar in the body forces more insulin production until there is a point where the body can no longer produce enough insulin to cope with sugar levels. This causes type-2 diabetes.
There are a few other risk factors to note including age since most cases occur in adults over 40 but there is an alarming trend of metabolic syndrome in people under 40 and even in children. All cultural groups are affected but there is a greater risk among Hispanic-American and African-American women. Patients with a personal or hereditary history of diabetes are also at higher risk. Slightly more women than men develop metabolic syndrome, particularly women with a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome POS or presence of ovarian cysts.
Menopause and metabolic syndrome
Dr. Peter P. Toth of the University of Illinois School of Medicine indicates 1/3 of menopausal women have metabolic syndrome. In his paper ‘Defining the Metabolic Syndrome,’ Toth points to increased obesity and a sedentary North American lifestyle. He warns metabolic syndrome patients are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. And there is a greater risk of steatosis or fatty degeneration of the liver, heart and other major organs. Fatty degeneration occurs when too many fatty deposits form and organ tissue begins to deteriorate.
Treating metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome requires a complete lifestyle change to help control the related heath issues. Patients are advised to lose and maintain their weight, follow a healthy diet, increase physical activity, stop smoking and continue getting regular testing to monitor cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, and triglyceride levels. Even those with just a few minor warning signs are better off making lifestyle changes to help prevent developing metabolic syndrome.
Managing your health is one of the most challenging but most rewarding activities during menopause. By being proactive, you can work with your doctor to maintain a healthy lifestyle that will add years to your life and life to your years.
Find out more about metabolic syndrome at:
www.nhlbi.nih.gov The National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute
Defining the Metabolic Syndrome, Peter P. Toth, MD, PhD, FAAFP, FAHA, FCCP, FACC. University of Illinois School of Medicine, Sterling, IL: Preventative Cardiology, Sterling Rock Falls Clinic, Ltd., Sterling, IL. Abstract and presentation at the North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, October 2010.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You