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The Answer Doc with Christopher Munger, M.D.

Explaining metabolic syndrome

    Note: Today begins a new health information column by Statesboro physician Christopher Munger. Look for the column to appear every other Sunday.

    274lbs!
    Can’t be. Try again. This time hang the heels off the edge a little. 275lbs!!!  Aargh! I was having a fat day. I know, men aren’t supposed to have fat days. But here I was having one. My head hurt, which usually was a sign that my blood pressure was up. So on the first day of a new job filled with uncertainty, I was certain of two things. I was fat and my blood pressure was definitely elevated. I knew what I had to do.
    At lunch, I grabbed a nurse. She took my blood pressure. 145 over 90.  This is not good
I then went to the lab and had some blood drawn.  The next day, my labs returned. Total cholesterol 180. LDL 135.  HDL 32. Triglycerides 180.  Glucose 106.  Not good just went to bad. Life insurance just got really expensive. I had metabolic syndrome!!
    Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t cancer. But as a family doctor, I knew what these numbers meant. More importantly, I knew what these numbers could mean in the future, if I didn’t do something now.
    Metabolic syndrome is actually a cluster of risk factors for Type 2 diabetes (also known as adult onset diabetes or insulin resistance diabetes) and cardiovascular disease.         The combination of these risk factors make people with metabolic syndrome more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart attack, and stroke than any one of the risk factors by themselves. The scary fact is that between 17 percent and 30 percent of adult men and between 8 percent and 20 percent of adult women have metabolic syndrome. Chances are you know someone who has this problem.  
    The most important characteristic of metabolic syndrome is central obesity which is defined as a waist size of 42 inches or greater in men or 36 inches or greater in women. Once a person has central obesity, they must have two of the four following abnormalities to be officially diagnosed with metabolic syndrome:
 1. Fasting triglycerides above 150.
 2. Fasting glucose greater than 100, which is a sign of insulin resistance.
 3.  Fasting HDL (good cholesterol) of less than 40.  
 4. Elevated blood pressure (anything greater than 130/80).  
    If you think you may fit these criteria, please see your doctor. With a tape measure, a blood pressure cuff, and a simple blood test, you could find out if you have this syndrome that puts you at much greater risk of diabetes, heart attack or stroke.
    The good news is that metabolic syndrome is easy to diagnose, that bad news is that treatment is not so easy.  There is no one medicine to treat metabolic syndrome. Some of the individual criteria, such as high blood pressure may need treatment.  The truth is that major way to combat metabolic syndrome is through lifestyle change.  
Lifestyle changes are the only treatment forms which have an effect on all the components of metabolic syndrome.         The five most important things a person can do to combat metabolic syndrome are:
 1. Increased physical activity
 2. Weight reduction
 3. Dietary changes:  increased fiber intake and decreased saturated fat intake
 4. Smoking cessation
 5. Limit alcohol intake to a minimal level
    I wrote this piece to share with you my own struggle with a medical issue. Perhaps many of you that read this might have some of the same problems I do. If so, see your doctor. Prevention is the greatest tool we have in modern medicine. From cancer to diabetes, the earlier we catch it, the greater the chance for cure or control without significant complications. Better still, if we can prevent whatever “it” is, the better a person’s overall health will be.   
    Dr. Christopher Munger is board certified in family practice. He is a member of the Family Health Care Center in Statesboro and admits patients to East Georgia Regional Medical Center.He recieved his bachelors degree from UCLA, his medical degree from Columbia University in New York City, and completed his training in family practice at the University Of Virginia. He lives in Statesboro with his wife and two dogs.

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