Metabolic Syndrome challenges the well-being of many individuals world-wide. It is essential to understand what this means and the implications in order to improve our health. In this newsletter, we will explore metabolic syndrome from a primary care perspective, discuss its definition, associated risk factors, diagnosis, and the importance of proactive management.
Defining metabolic syndrome:
Metabolic syndrome is a mixture of interconnective abnormalities that increase the risk of developing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes (along with its complications), and stroke. It is a range of factors, including elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess abdominal fat, abnormal cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance. These factors contribute to increased risk of future health complications. Most of these are not evident based on symptoms, which is why it is so important to see your primary care physician, at least yearly.
Assessing associated risk factors:
Primary care physicians are pivotal in identifying risk factors that contribute to metabolic syndrome. Regular check-ups help evaluate patient’s blood pressure, blood glucose levels (blood sugar), cholesterol levels, waist circumference, family medical history (genetic factors). This allows primary care physicians to initiate timely interventions/therapy and help a patient prevent or mitigate the development of metabolic syndrome. Many of the factors associated with metabolic syndrome do not have symptoms until the consequences of these have already appeared.
Diagnostic criteria: 3 or more of the following:
- Central obesity – men with a waist circumference > 40 inches, women with waist circumference > 35 inches
- Elevated blood pressure – blood pressure reading consistently at or above 130/85
- Dyslipidemia – unhealthy lipid levels such as high LDL, low HDL and/or high triglycerides
- High blood glucose levels – fasting blood sugar equal to or greater than 100
- Insulin resistance – impaired fasting blood sugar or clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes
What can primary care physicians do?
The key aspects in management include proactive and a patient-centered approach to care including:
- Lifestyle modification – encouraging patients to adopt healthier habits. Personalized nutrition plans, regular physical activity, stress management, adequate sleep, smoking cessation.
- Medication management – in cases where lifestyle modification is inadequate, medications may be necessary. These may include medications to address obesity, lowering blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure.
- Regular monitoring and follow-up – regular monitoring is necessary to identify early warning signs and make necessary changes to prevent or slow the progression of disease states that lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke, declining kidney function, heart failure, etc. Timeframe for follow-up is individualized. Some individuals require more frequent appointments.
- Patient education and empowerment – A primary care setting is an ideal platform for patient education and empowering/inspiring individuals to take charge of their own health.
Metabolic syndrome is complex with far-reaching consequences. At Uplift Family Medicine, one of our main goals is to provide an inspiring environment where patients feel safe, accepted and empowered to take charge of their own health. Therefore, regular and appropriate screenings, it is possible to slow or prevent devastating consequences of metabolic syndrome.