What is Insulin Resistance Syndrome? Symptoms: Abdominal Obesity, Low HDL Cholesterol, High Triglycerides, Hyperinsulimia

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What is Insulin Resistance Syndrome?

An important advance in the understanding of diabetes, blood-glucose control and obesity, has been the identification of a cluster of interlinked symptoms known as Insulin Resistance Syndrome (also called Syndrome X or Metabolic Syndrome). The general symptoms of insulin resistance which form the core of this metabolic imbalance, include:

  • Central abdominal obesity (excessive fat tissue around the abdomen) as evidenced by an extended waist circumference.
  • High triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol, cf. LDL), leading to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Hyperinsulimia, glucose intolerance (the body can’t properly use insulin or blood sugar) leading to increased risk of diabetes and obesity.

Insulin Resistance Syndrome - Cells Insensitive to Insulin

Patients with insulin resistance syndrome have problems with the regulation of glucose metabolism. In simple terms, after eating a meal, the resulting glucose-from-food is dispersed by the hormone insulin (which is released by the pancreas) to the cells for use as energy. But in patients with insulin resistance, the cells become insensitive to insulin, and are therefore unable to use insulin efficiently. Result? The pancreas either becomes exhausted trying to produce extra insulin, (leading to diabetes) or else the body suffers from excessively high levels of insulin (leading to obesity, and increased risk of heart disease).

What Causes Insulin Resistance Syndrome?

The main known causes of insulin resistance syndrome are a combination of (a) genetic factors; (b) obesity; and (c) lack of exercise. Other influences include: nutritional deficiencies of certain minerals, and liver dysfunction and/or fatty liver.

How to Diagnose Insulin Resistance Syndrome?

There are no universal diagnostic criteria for insulin resistance syndrome. One widely used set of diagnostic criteria are those proposed by the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III).

According to these ATP III criteria, insulin resistance syndrome is identified by the presence of three or more of these elements:

  • Abdominal obesity as measured by waist circumference:
    Men - Greater than 40 inches
    Women - Greater than 35 inches
  • Blood HDL cholesterol:
    Men - Less than 40 mg/dL
    Women - Less than 50 mg/dL
  • Fasting blood triglycerides greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL
  • Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting glucose greater than or equal to 110 mg/dL

What are the Consequences of Insulin Resistance Syndrome?

Patients with insulin resistance syndrome have an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.

How is Insulin Resistance Syndrome Treated?

The most effective way to reduce insulin resistance in overweight and obese people is through weight loss and increased physical activity. Some research indicates that using a low-glycemic-index diet can help to reduce insulin insensitivity and improve the regulation of glucose metabolism.

For example, if you're overweight, simply losing up to 10 percent of your current body weight can bring blood pressure down and increase your cells' sensitivity to insulin. Exercise is an important component of weight loss. It also raises HDL blood levels, even without weight loss.

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