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Chronic Conditions: Syndrome X -- Do You Have It?

What is it?
Stanford researchers have discovered Syndrome X, a cluster of risk factors for heart disease associated with insulin resistance. These risk factors include high levels of blood pressure, sugar, insulin, and triglycerides (a non-cholesterol blood fat), together with low levels of good (HDL) cholesterol.

What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It helps sugar (glucose) move from the blood stream into cells, where it is used for immediate energy or stored for later use.

What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance occurs when the cells do not respond to insulin by taking in sugar. The pancreas then secretes more insulin, solving the problem for most people. But, in one-third of patients, the resistance cannot be overcome by more insulin. In these patients, sugar builds up in the blood, and the result is type-2 diabetes.

What causes insulin resistance?
No one knows. There may be a genetic predisposition. What we do know is that obesity and inactivity bring out insulin resistance and that exercise and weight loss decrease its impact.

Who has insulin resistance?
Almost everyone with type-2 diabetes and many with high blood pressure, obesity, or heart disease have insulin resistance. About 20% of the healthy American population has insulin resistance.

What are the symptoms?
There are no symptoms of insulin resistance (also known as cardiovascular dysmetabolic syndrome.) Since not everyone with insulin resistance will get diabetes, the diagnosis can only be confirmed by a glucose tolerance test that includes insulin measurements.

What should you do?
If you are overweight, have high blood pressure, and an imbalance between cholesterol and triglycerides, you most likely have insulin resistance.You don't need to be tested; you do need to exercise and lose weight. Even moderate exercise (walking two miles three times a week) and even a few pounds of weight loss decrease insulin resistance.

What about diet?
A very low fat diet may worsen insulin resistance. Aim for a diet low in saturated fats (10% of calories) and more liberal in total fat (40%) than is usually recommended for prevention of heart disease. And don't forget to lower total calories by at least a little!

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Chronic Conditions: Syndrome X -- Do You Have It?

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