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Metabolic Syndrome: The Hidden Diagnosis (Blog Series, Part II)

written by Courtney Baird and Dr. Jennifer Coomes



This is the second part of the Metabolic Syndrome blog series that helps to support the Metabolic Syndrome online class offered by Dr. Jennifer Coomes, Courtney Baird, and Cassidy Schukar. This part of the series will talk more about the chronic diseases and mental health conditions associated with Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) whereas the first part of the blog series talked about the definition and criteria of MetS. Take a few moments to read this article as Courtney leads you through great analogies to help explain what is happening in the body with MetS and chronic disease and then look at the attached online class to see what is happening in mental health conditions.




Chronic Diseases associated with MetS


People with Metabolic Syndrome have twice as much chance of getting cardiovascular disease, which can result in a heart attack or stroke, and five times greater chance of getting type-II diabetes mellitus or T2D (2). Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with all five of the symptoms that could be included in Metabolic Syndrome (2). A study from Spain found that more than three quarters of people with Metabolic Syndrome had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (2).


Poor diet and sedentary behavior can result in increased stored visceral fat. Visceral fat can reduce the function of the pancreas along with other influences. The pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin, which is a hormone that lowers blood sugar by signaling for cells in the body to take in glucose from circulating blood. The combination of impaired pancreatic function and more fat within arteries, due to high circulation of LDL and triglycerides and low HDL, cells are unable to respond to insulin as they should.


When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to maintain blood sugar, this is Type I diabetes (T1D) and is typically and autoimmune disorder. When the body’s cells are in “resistance”, or unable to respond to insulin, it is considered Type II diabetes (T2D).


Insulin resistance affects the liver and has cascading affects. First, the liver is impaired in its ability to regulate the fat that is circulating in the blood. This continues to decrease the HDL and increase the triglycerides and LDL leading to atherosclerosis. Impaired liver function due to insulin resistance can result in inflammation throughout the body. Increased inflammation plays a role in many chronic conditions and can further contribute to the formation of atherosclerosis.


Atherosclerosis and high blood pressure are interrelated. Blood pressure can rise and fall throughout the day and can change depending on a person’s mood or stress. Constant high blood pressure means that the heart is continually working harder to get oxygen and nutrients through the blood to all parts of the body.


Think of your blood vessels like a garden hose. When you have built up pressure, the force of the water, or blood, is much higher than if the pressure was not as high. Continual high blood pressure can result in damage to the blood vessels, typically the arteries which carry blood away from the pumping heart. When there is damage to a site on an artery, the body tries to fix the issue by creating an immune response. When white blood cells arrive at the damage site on the artery, they lead to further inflammation. Circulating lipids are attached to this spot and the site of injury begins the formation of atherosclerosis, which is a fancy word to describe the buildup of fatty plaque deposits on the lining of an artery.


As atherosclerosis continues to build, the pressure to pump blood through the artery increases. To continue the hose analogy, the smaller the opening of the hose, the higher the pressure to flow through the hose is required. Fatty plaques lining the artery would be like pinching the hose… pressure builds up. As this continues, atherosclerosis continues, and blood pressure continues to rise. This is why it is important to address these symptoms through diet and lifestyle because they only continue to feed the other condition if not managed. Atherosclerosis and insulin resistance are also related. Uncontrolled blood glucose is a strong risk factor for atherosclerosis. When a person’s resting blood glucose is high, this results in oxidative stress which plays a role in the formation of atherosclerosis.


Why is all of this Important and what are the Next Steps?

My hope is that Courtney helped to simplify some of the complex physiology in the body related to MetS to help you understand more if you are dealing with any of these conditions or you are feeling symptoms associated with MetS. It is a perfect time to consider getting your annual physical to get your latest set of blood labs so you can determine if you are showing early or current signs of MetS. The online class on Metabolic Syndrome talks about blood labs much more and is a great next step here to learn more about what labs to get such as the CBC with differential and the CMP. The online class has been attached here so that you can learn more!



Choose A Personalized & Functional Nutrition Approach


You are highly encouraged to consider making an appointment with a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN) for further evaluation of your medical conditions and nutrition protocols to consider to prevent or reduce the need for medication. The online class covers some nutrition options but they are general guidelines and do not replace a full evaluation with a DCN for your specific case to assess for specific nutrition problems that can be holding you back from better health. Each case is different, and you are encouraged to see Dr. Jennifer Coomes at EH&R to get a personalized and functional nutrition assessment of your medical history along with blood labs, assessments, and personal goals.


You can reach out to Dr. Jennifer Coomes at jennifer@essencehealthandresearch.com or call 425.505.3090 for questions or to make your appointment! You can make a positive impact forward with your health with the right healthcare team!

References:


(1): NCI Dictionary of Cancer terms. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/syndrome 


(2): Samson, S. L., & Garber, A. J. (2014). Metabolic syndrome. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America, 43(1), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecl.2013.09.009


(3): Edlin, G., & Golanty, E. (2016). Health & Wellness. Jones & Bartlett Learning. 

(4): Hartley, A., Haskard, D., & Khamis, R. (2019). Oxidized LDL and anti-oxidized LDL antibodies in atherosclerosis - Novel insights and future directions in diagnosis and therapy. Trends in cardiovascular medicine, 29(1), 22–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tcm.2018.05.010


(5): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022). What is metabolic syndrome?. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/metabolic-syndrome#:~:text=Metabolic%20syndrome%20is%20common%20in,health%20problems%20it%20can%20cause



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