Monday, January 13, 2014

Can Metabolic Syndrome Be Diagnosed Early?

Metabolic syndrome, which is a disorder of energy utilization and storage, is the name for a group of 5 risk factors that raises one’s risk for many health problems including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The 5 risk factors are abdominal (central) obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high triglycerides level, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level. When a person is diagnosed with at least 3 out of these 5 risk factors, he or she is said to develop metabolic syndrome.

Because of the rise in obesity rates, metabolic syndrome is becoming more common among adults. It is very likely that it might just overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.

At The Endocrine Society's 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco held on 15-18 June 2013, researchers the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and West Virginia University, Morgantown revealed that they have developed a risk assessment scoring system for diagnosing the metabolic syndrome that might better identify certain adults, especially African Americans, at high risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Current diagnostic criteria do not really consider gender and race making some high-risk individuals not meeting the criteria for the metabolic syndrome. For example, African-American men are less likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, despite having higher rates of Type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

1 in 5 adult in the United States has metabolic syndrome. If the syndrome could be diagnosed earlier, it can begin preventive treatment sooner before development of Type-2 diabetes and occurrence of a heart attack or stroke. 

The study evaluated data from 6,881 men and women participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2010. The participants aged between 20 and 64 and were African American, white or Hispanic.

Results of their analysis confirmed that sex- and ethnicity-based differences, which they previously found in teenagers, persist into adulthood. Using this information, they then created a racial- and sex-specific scoring system for the severity of metabolic syndrome. Numeric values were assigned to each of the 5 metabolic syndrome components, with each component having a different weight for each sex and racial-ethnic group.

For women, waist circumference had a higher weighting in blacks than in whites, while the HDL cholesterol level for African-American men received a higher weighting than blood pressure, indicating it may be a more obvious sign of worsening metabolic syndrome.

According to researchers, their new linear scoring system strongly correlated with other biological markers of metabolic risk. Meanwhile, they plan to create online automatic calculators that patients can use to determine their risk score for severity of metabolic syndrome. They also hope that other researchers will use the risk score to determine patients' progress with time, such as improvement in metabolic risk after drug treatment.

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