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May 30, 2006 > Connect the Dots: Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes, Diet and Exercise

Connect the Dots: Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes, Diet and Exercise

Free Class Next Month Focuses on "Metabolic Syndrome" and Healthy Diet

Hypertension, diabetes, obesity. These terms are all beginning to sound familiar thanks to increased public awareness. Put all three together, though, and we have a term not as many are familiar with -- metabolic syndrome.

On Monday, June 5, Dr. Steven Curran, Washington Hospital Medical Staff family practice physician and medical director of Washington Clinic/Warm Springs and Washington Clinic/Newark, will present a seminar to shed some light on the topic, and more importantly, explain how metabolic syndrome might impact you or a loved one.

Know the risk factors
According to Curran, metabolic syndrome is best described as a "cluster" of risk factors present in one person. The American Heart Association defines the factors associated with metabolic syndrome as:

  • Abdominal obesity (excessive fat tissue in and around the abdomen)

  • Atherogenic dyslipidemia (blood fat disorders -- high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol -- that foster plaque buildups in artery walls)

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Insulin resistance or glucose intolerance (the body can’t properly use insulin or blood sugar)

  • Prothrombotic state (e.g., high fibrinogen or plasminogen activator inhibitor--1 in the blood)

  • Proinflammatory state (e.g., elevated C-reactive protein in the blood)

It sounds complicated, but the most important thing to remember is that to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a person must exhibit at least three of the risk factors. While metabolic syndrome is a relatively new term, Curran says, the individual components that make it up have long been recognized in the medical community.

Metabolic syndrome is significant because even borderline elevation of certain factors associated with it can mean you are at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Curran refers to heart disease and stroke as "Public Enemy No. 1" because they kill more Americans than any other diseases combined.

"It does appear that metabolic syndrome is on the rise," Curran says. "One scary statistic is that some 47 million Americans may be affected."

Catch it early
If you think you might be at risk for metabolic syndrome, it’s a good idea to follow up with your doctor. High blood pressure, diabetes and obesity many times can be symptom-free causing patients to ignore them far longer than they should. Just because you "feel fine" doesn’t mean your health is not suffering. But, with the help of your family physician, you can begin getting the factors of metabolic syndrome under control.
 "Early intervention is important," Curran says. "First, we take an aggressive approach with diet and exercise and close follow-up. Then we’ll talk to patients about more specific goals in terms of blood sugar, specific weight loss goal, and blood pressure. We don’t want patients to fall through the cracks. With metabolic syndrome, good numbers are not good enough. You need great numbers."

Get a good start with proper nutrition
Anna Mazzei, a registered clinical dietitian at Washington Hospital, will be talking in-depth about diet and nutrition during the June 5 class.
   Proper nutrition and exercise can go a long way towards helping people achieve their healthy weight. The good news is that maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t require a series of unhealthy "crash" diets. International No Diet Day, recognized this month, focuses on celebrating the diversity of all bodies and shapes and encourages people to rethink constant dieting while focusing on balanced nutrition.

"You have to accept a healthy weight for yourself that may not be the ‘ideal’ weight you have in your mind," according to Mazzei. "Your healthy weight may not be the same weight you’ll see in Hollywood."

An important part of maintaining a healthy weight, in addition to proper diet, according to Mazzei, is something many diets don’t focus on -- exercise. But physical activity makes a huge difference helping your body burn calories more efficiently.

"The problem is managing these diets once you have met your goal," Mazzei says. "Many diets might be a good starting point if you need help, but you have to make permanent lifestyle changes. Diets glamorize ‘the weight loss answer.’ People are looking for a magic bullet. For example, encouraging excess of one food group and/or excluding another."

Mazzei, who is also a certified diabetes educator, recommends common sense eating, which includes a variety of lower fat foods and controlling portions.

Making healthy choices
"There is no one food group that gives your body everything it needs," Mazzei says. "Vitamins and minerals, fiber, protein -- they all come from different sources. Milk is great for calcium but doesn’t have fiber. It’s important to select choices from each food group. They all have something to offer."

Make healthy choices, Mazzei adds, but don’t beat yourself up when you have that candy bar at lunch and then use it as an excuse to binge for two or three days before going back on another diet.

 "You have to accept what you can and cannot do," Mazzei says. "Always look for the opportunity to make the healthier choice."

For anyone who has ever groaned at the mention of exercise (while imagining toiling on the treadmill for hours), increasing your activity level gradually, Mazzei says, can have major results over the long run for both weight loss -- if that’s what you’re trying to achieve -- and overall health.

"Look for those opportunities to make healthy choices consistently -- such as choosing fresh fruits and vegetables or the chance to increase your activity level," Mazzei says. "Over time, these changes will make the difference. You have to be patient. For those concerned about losing weight, take a 15- to 30-minute walk during lunch, use the stairs rather than the elevator and walk the dog. You can break up your exercise, such as taking a 10- to 15-minute walk three times a day. Try to choose an activity you enjoy.

There are plenty of ways to achieve healthy weight loss without fad diets or beating yourself up. If you feel you overeat for emotional reasons, such as stress, and that it’s affecting your health, Mazzei recommends seeking professional help to get at the root of the problem.

Learn more!
During the Health & Wellness class, "The Metabolic Syndrome," Dr. Curran will discuss the combined effects of hypertension, diabetes and weight problems, and Mazzei will talk about nutrition and diet.

The class will be held on Monday, June 5 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the conference center adjacent to the new Nakamura Clinic, Union City located at 33077 Alvarado-Niles Road on the corner of Dowe Avenue.

You must register to attend the class. Call Health Connection at (800) 963-7070 to register or learn more.
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