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Feb 07, 2012

Minimizing Impact of Metabolic Syndrome and Pre-Diabetes

Learn how to prevent and even reverse certain risk factors for heart disease.

It can be troubling to consider the millions of individuals living with cardiovascular risk factors who have not yet been diagnosed with heart disease. While these at-risk individuals are not yet sick, the long-term damage to their hearts may have already begun, and the development of heart disease may seem close on the horizon.

But therein lies the good news. Because this population does not yet have heart disease, there is an immense opportunity for prevention and even reversal of risk factors. And expert Scott Grundy, MD, PhD helps summarize this opportunity in a recent paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that often occur together and greatly increase risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. These risk factors include a large waistline, a high triglyceride level, a low HDL (“good”) cholesterol level, high blood pressure and/or high fasting blood sugar. Patients with at least three of these risk factors, who are often obese, are considered to have metabolic syndrome. And the more risk factors they have, the greater their cardiovascular risk. However, most of these risk factors can be minimized or reversed, writes Dr. Grundy, and it may not be as difficult as we might think.

One of the most important risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome is high blood sugar, also known as pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes means that an individual’s blood sugar is higher than normal, but is not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Because diabetes greatly increases cardiovascular risk, Dr. Grundy stresses the importance of preventing, or at least delaying, the development of diabetes, particularly among those who are pre-diabetic. And research shows that lifestyle changes, such as weight reduction and increased physical activity, are most effective.

However, Dr. Grundy also notes the importance of addressing all metabolic risk factors to minimize cardiovascular risk—most importantly, lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. These goals can often be achieved through weight reduction; increased physical activity; reduced intake of sodium, saturated fat and trans-fatty acids; and medication, when necessary. And although additional research is needed to fully understand metabolic syndrome and pre-diabetes, patients and providers can work together to successfully reduce their risk factors and help prevent heart disease.

Read this Article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Can a patient with pre-diabetes prevent the onset of diabetes?

  • Yes, through lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet and increasing physical activity, individuals with pre-diabetes may be able to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes altogether. And although prevention of diabetes is not always possible through lifestyle changes, it can help delay onset of diabetes and minimize long-term damage to the heart and body.
  • How is pre-diabetes diagnosed?

  • Pre-diabetes can be diagnosed through two types of testing: oral glucose tolerance testing and/or fasting glucose testing. Both can help identify if a patient has an impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance.

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