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Road to Health | Syndrome X; yo-yo diets

By: Ann Marie Coppen

Anne Marie Coppen

PhD, FNP, Nurse Practitioner

For a personal response to your health question, Ask Ann Marie at askannmarie@lindora.com. Selected questions will be featured in future columns.

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Understanding Syndrome X

Hormone imbalance, either a deficiency or an excess, can cause numerous health issues. Thyroid, testosterone, insulin, growth hormone, melatonin, and cortisol hormones are all powerful regulators of the body’s metabolism and cellular functions. Syndrome X, also known as Metabolic Syndrome, is described as a cluster of metabolic disorders typically found in association with insulin resistance. In some cases, the effects of unbalanced insulin levels can often go silent for years – dubbing this condition as a ‘silent killer’.

syndrome x testingInsulin, a hormone critical to human health, is secreted by cells of the pancreas. One of insulin’s main functions is to transport blood sugar (glucose) into the cell as fat to ultimately be burned as fuel for energy. The term insulin resistance is a decreased ability for some of the body’s cells to respond to insulin. Insulin resistance can cause the blood sugar levels to rise which, in turn, can trigger the body to produce too much insulin. This creates a condition called hyperinsulinemia, too much insulin in the blood.

Excess insulin causes chemical changes in the liver which leads to increased triglycerides (a type of fat), lower good cholesterol (HDL), and salt retention. These elevate blood pressure. Excess insulin also keeps fat from entering the body’s cells to be burned as energy. This encourages the storage of fat. In short, excess insulin directly creates obesity. Insulin resistance can cause obesity – and many obesity related conditions. You can see the vicious cycle that starts with insulin becoming resistant to the cells.

Insulin resistance is caused by excess body fat, inadequate physical activity, consuming too many carbohydrate calories, too high a total caloric intake, and not enough essential fatty acids. In other words, too much food and too little exercise can be a dangerous, or even deadly, combination.

How do you know if you have Syndrome X?

There are five cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with insulin resistance. Each of these risk factors is considered dangerous, but when they occur together, the overall risk to your health can be significant. If left untreated, Syndrome X leads to diabetes, chronic hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and even death.

People who have three or more of these conditions are likely to have Syndrome X:

  1. A waist measurement greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women
  2. Fasting triglyceride level of 150mg/dl or greater
  3. HDL cholesterol levels below 40mg/dl for men and below 50mg/dl for women
  4. Blood pressure of 130/85 or higher
  5. Fasting blood sugar of 110mg/dl or higher

Please note that someone having hyperinsulinemia may not have all of the side effects associated with high insulin levels. Each person is unique; one person may only have high blood pressure and fluid retention, another may only have obesity and high triglycerides. Likewise, not everyone with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity has insulin resistance. The only way to know is to be tested. A metabolic evaluation to define glucose/insulin tolerance is necessary for anyone with a family history of diabetes or any of the mentioned health problems.

The good news is that through weight control and increased physical activity, the process of insulin resistance can be reversed in as little as two weeks. Making significant and permanent life style modifications will lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglycerides while raising HDL levels thus reversing Syndrome X.  This also lowers your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke.

Be sure to consult your physician if you believe you may be at risk of this underlying hormone imbalance. Your life may depend on it!

I’m wondering if all the years of yo-yo dieting have affected my metabolism. If so, how do I fix it?

yo-yo dietingIt is a myth that yo-yo dieting causes a permanent change in your metabolism. Yo-yo dieting will have an influence on lowering your metabolism at the time that you are dramatically reducing your calorie intake. However, it is not permanent. When you stop the yo-yo dieting, the metabolism will slowly return to normal.

The metabolic rate is the rate in which the body burns calories. There are many factors that determine what your metabolic rate is:

  • Your age
  • Level of daily activity
  • Muscle to fat proportions

The bottom line is that if you eat sensibly (smaller healthy portions each 2-3 hours throughout your day), exercise, and build muscle through strength or resistance training, you can boost your metabolism. Throw some dumbbells or resistance bands in your truck, and pump some iron whenever you have a moment. Or, drop down and do some push-ups. Start slow and use the side of the truck or a wall. Plan on increasing the number of reps a little bit every week. Strength training is crucial to successful weight loss.

Drivers! Find it hard to get to a gym while on the road? There are now online classes that are essentially a traveling gym. Companies, like SpiroFit.com, are invaluable for the driver that spends much of their time on the road. Many trainers have made their expertise mobile to help you at whatever level you find comfortable.

Yo-yo dieting is not healthy, so let’s start on the path of being lean for life!

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