Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease state, in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body does not effectively utilize the insulin being produced. The result of such events is that an increased amount of glucose remains in the bloodstream. This is known as hyperglycemia. Uncontrolled hyperglycemia can lead to numerous medical conditions, and, in extreme cases, can be life-threatening. Prompt, early treatment is the best way to control the disease process and reduce the occurrence of associated complications.
Diabetes is associated with another abnormality known as metabolic syndrome. The two conditions share many common causes, as well as common treatment recommendations. Having metabolic syndrome can predispose you to developing diabetes. The incidence of metabolic syndrome increases greatly with age. Only 9.2% of women aged 20-29 have metabolic syndrome, while 64.4% of women aged 80-89 have it. For men, the percentages are 11% for the younger population, and as high as 47.2% for the older population.
Although age is a non-modifiable risk factor for metabolic syndrome, lifestyle changes play a role in reducing the occurrence of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is defined as having the following risk factors/medical conditions:
- Increased waist circumference of >40 inches for men; >35 inches for women
- Elevated triglycerides above 150mg/dl
- Reduced HDL cholesterol of <40 for men; <50 for women
- Elevated blood pressure of 130/85 ( or existing hypertension)
- Elevated fasting glucose of 100mg/dl or greater ( or use of medication for hyperglycemia)
Weight gain, especially an increase in visceral fat- the kind that accumulates around your belly) causes your body’s insulin to become less effective. Thus, your pancreas has to secret more insulin to get energy into the muscles. The loss of insulin effectiveness is called insulin resistance.
Sedentary lifestyles are a major factor in the development of metabolic syndrome. In addition, other factors that increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome are: post-menopausal state, tobacco usage, high carbohydrate intake, no alcohol consumption, and low socioeconomic status (higher potential for unhealthy food choices and increased stress).
Efforts to reduce the effects of metabolic syndrome, or reverse the process itself, include losing weight, getting active, stopping smoking, refined carbohydrates, reducing alcohol intake, and an improved diet. For more information on metabolic syndrome , check with your local chapter of the American Diabetes Association.