Conquering Metabolic Syndrome
Through Lifestyle Change
Lifestyle change is never easy, especially when it involves personal habits related to diet, exercise and weight loss. But for individuals diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a constellation of disorders including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity – adopting a healthier routine is a must. Without change, these individuals are at increased risk of developing heart or kidney disease, cancer, sleep disorders, (sleep apnea) muscle-joint problems and stroke.
According to Safak Guven, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin endocrinologist and Froedtert & Medical College Metabolic Syndrome Clinic director, metabolic syndrome consists of three or more of the following:
- A waistline of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women
- A blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher
- A triglyceride level above 150 mg/dl
- A fasting blood glucose level greater than 110 mg/dl
- A high density lipoprotein level (HDL) less than 40 mg/dl for men or under 50 mg/dl for women
"The syndrome’s underlying problem is insulin resistance and the most common abnormality is type 2 diabetes," explains Dr. Guven. "Central obesity, measured by waist circumference, gives rise to insulin resistance. That means the pancreas is secreting insulin, but there is a resistance for the glucose to get into the muscle tissue, where it is mostly utilized.
"At the clinic, patients meet with a team consisting of a dietitian, exercise physiologist, physical therapist and psychologist that develops individual diet and exercise programs to help patients lose weight. Medications are also scrutinized. As patients lose weight, they often become more responsive to medications and require lower amounts. The program’s ultimate goal is to get blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol within optimal guideline levels.
Says Dr. Guven, "A key element of success is the willingness and readiness of our patients to take action." For Stan Szwedo, that moment came in December of 2002. "I got to a point where I realized I had to do something," he says. The retired tool and die maker struggled with high blood pressure and excessive weight since being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1983. With knee and back problems, he was unable to exercise and was using an electric wheelchair for mobility.
Szwedo’s physician referred him to the clinic. "They took me through the whole diabetes thing from beginning to end – what it is, how it started and how I can manage it." The clinic also helped Szwedo develop a diet and exercise plan, and encouraged him to join a health club, where he works out in a pool three to four times a week.
Today, Szwedo is 48 pounds slimmer, his blood pressure is normal and he is using far less insulin to manage his diabetes. He is also less dependent on his wheelchair and often uses a cane to get around. He is working to lose more weight, but more importantly, he says he now really cares about his health. "I’ve got grandchildren and I want to be around to see them grow up."