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The Metabolic Syndrome
A chiropractic solution for a growing health problem
By Ray D. Strand, MD
Did you know that more than 25 percent of the adults and many of the children in the United States and Canada have the metabolic syndrome? And another 25 percent of the adult population are in the early stages of developing this syndrome, which significantly accelerates the aging process?
That is half of the patients you see in your office. Learning how to diagnose and successfully treat this syndrome with chiropractic care along with healthy lifestyles offers you a golden opportunity to practice the preventive medicine and wellness for which you have been trained.
WHAT IS THE METABOLIC SYNDROME?
The metabolic syndrome was initially defined by Gerald Reavens, MD, a physician and researcher at the University of Stanford. He noted a constellation of problems that occurred in patients who had developed insulin resistance. These included high blood pressure, high triglyceride and LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, central obesity, and high risk of heart disease and diabetes.
This constellation of problems creates an accelerated aging of our arteries and leads to premature death.
Several different theories have been proposed concerning why this syndrome develops; however, they all lead to the conclusion that these patients simply become less and less sensitive to their own insulin.
The body compensates for this insulin resistance by producing ever-increasing levels of insulin. As the insulin levels begin to rise, the body "tips over" into this abnormal metabolic state and leads to this constellation of problems that is now called the metabolic syndrome.
YEARS TO DEVELOP
A person doesn't just wake up one day and have diabetes. All researchers agree that it takes years for insulin resistance to develop. Even after he or she develops insulin resistance, the body is able to compensate for this insulin resistance by making more and more insulin.
However, after another 10 to 15 years, most of these patients will barely be able to keep up making this much insulin, and insulin levels eventually begin to fall. As insulin levels begin to fall, blood sugar begins to rise.
Initially patients develop pre-clinical diabetes, and then many go on to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus and become at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Medical doctors tend to wait until the patients actually develop the high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, heart disease, or diabetes and then begin treating with prescription medications. The sad thing about this approach is that patients begin to experience accelerated aging the moment they "tip over" into this abnormal metabolic state.
By the time medical doctors actually diagnose diabetes in their office, more than 60 percent of these patients already has major cardiovascular disease.
Insulin resistance has easily noted early signs:
• Central weight gain. Anytime your female patients develop a waist measurement (measure one inch below the umbilicus) more than 28 or 29 inches or men more than 35 or 36 inches, they have most likely developed insulin resistance.
• Increasing blood pressure. When you note a blood pressure of greater than 130/85, you have to be concerned that your patients have developed insulin resistance
• Elevated triglycerides along with low HDL or good cholesterol. One of the first signs of insulin resistance is an increasing triglyceride level and a lowering HDL cholesterol. Simply divide the patient's triglyceride level by their HDL cholesterol level. A score of more than two or three suggests insulin resistance.
When a female patient's HDL cholesterol is less than 50 or a male patient's HDL cholesterol is less than 40, it is also a sign of insulin resistance.
• Craving for highly processed carbohydrates. This is a sign, especially when the craving is accompanied by increased nighttime eating.
• Inability to lose weight. When diets consistently fail, insulin resistance may be indicated.
HOW TO TREAT METABOLIC SYNDROME
The FDA has not yet approved a drug to treat the metabolic syndrome. Patients will suffer with this syndrome for years before their doctors begin treating with drugs. Then it is too late, and the doctors don't treat the underlying cause of this disease - insulin resistance.
The only way to treat this problem is to have patients improve their lifestyles. When you combine a healthy diet that combines good carbohydrates, good fats, and good proteins, along with a modest, consistent exercise program and nutritional supplementation, you can reverse this syndrome.
Adding traditional chiropractic care allows for even more consistent and better results.
Many chiropractors in the United States and Canada are now beginning to diagnose and treat this syndrome at its early stages, when it is more easily treated by these lifestyle changes. Chiropractors are utilizing behavioral modification programs along with routine chiropractic visits to effectively reverse this insulin resistance and allow their patients to "tip back" into a normal metabolic state.
This significantly improves their health parameters and decreases their risk of developing heart disease and diabetes while at the same time allowing their patients to lose weight permanently.
Chiropractors who begin treating patients with the metabolic syndrome early will not only be able to significantly help their patients but greatly expand their clinical practice. Since nearly 50 percent of your adult patients have this problem, the potential number and volume of patients is tremendous.
Medical doctors will continue to question and discuss its importance because they don't have a drug for it and don't really know what to do. This will allow chiropractors to address this disorder years before their patients develop any of the problems associated with the metabolic syndrome. Since patients who are able to reverse their insulin resistance experience a drop in their blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, and lose that central weight gain, they will become less dependent on medications and their physicians and more loyal to you -their "true" healthcare provider. This is the basis of "true" preventive medicine and wellness.