CATES:Metabolic syndrome and young adults - Odessa American: Health

CATES:Metabolic syndrome and young adults

By Carol A. Cates, MSN, MBA, RN | Posted: Monday, June 29, 2020 6:45 am

Many years ago, I worked with the cardiac catheterization laboratory (cath lab) at Baylor Heart & Vascular in Dallas. The cath lab is the department in the hospital where people who are suspected of having heart disease come in for diagnostic testing to determine the extent of that disease, and then intervene with stents and other technologies if the vessels that supply the heart have reduced blood flow—which hopefully prevents them from having a heart attack. Cath labs also can intervene in most cases where people are having an active heart attack (in the medical world we call those ST-elevated myocardial infarctions or STEMI’s), so the damage is minimized. That is why calling 911 if you think you are having a heart attack is so important. One week while I was there, we had 3 unusual STEMI patients come into the cath lab all in one week. Those 3 people were unusual because they were all under age 25. I had never seen anyone that young come into the cath lab having a heart attack before. Unfortunately, I have seen it again since. The reason for those people to have heart attacks at such a young age was largely because they all suffered from metabolic syndrome.

According to the American Heart Association, metabolic syndrome is a serious medical condition that affects about 23 percent of all adults. People with metabolic syndrome are at much higher risk than the general population for several serious conditions: stroke, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—also known as acid reflux. Metabolic syndrome occurs when someone has three or more of the following conditions: abdominal obesity—which is a waist circumference of greater than 40 inches in med on 35 inches in women, triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or greater, HDL less than 40mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women, a systolic blood pressure (top number) of 130 mmHg or greater or a diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 85 mmHg or greater, or a fasting glucose of 100mg/dL or greater.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they found that the rates of metabolic syndrome are increasing in people under 40 at a significant rate, increasing 5% in a 5 year period. Overall metabolic syndrome is increasing in all age groups, but the biggest increases are being seen in people aged 20-39. Increases on racial and gender lines were not as significant as the increases in age. According to the researchers this means that while genetics does have some impact on rates for metabolic syndrome, the biggest factor is lifestyle. They went onto say, “it’s not just having metabolic syndrome that is the problem, it’s the duration you have that problem”. The longer someone has metabolic syndrome, the higher their risk of diabetes, heart disease, strokes and the other conditions associated with metabolic syndrome. The researchers said, basically it boils down to two things, we are as a population getting greyer (older) and fluffier (more overweight), and the fluffy is starting younger. Young adults with metabolic syndrome have many more years to accumulate damage because of this condition—which means they will have problems earlier in life and they will be more severe than someone who develops metabolic syndrome in their 60s or 70s.

Avoiding metabolic syndrome is similar to avoiding the conditions in which metabolic syndrome increases risk. Regular exercise, a diet low in fats, processed sugars and salt, and high in fiber, and regular visits with a primary health care provider.

If you think you may be experiencing the signs of a heart attack: chest discomfort, chest pressure, chest ache, chest burning, chest fullness, chest pain that radiates down arms or up into neck or back, weakness, sweating, nausea, or dizziness, or the signs of a stroke: Sudden drooping on one side of the face, sudden weakness in an arm and/or leg, especially one side, sudden changes in speech of sight, and unexplained dizziness, Call 911 immediately. Both strokes and heart attacks have a much better chance of treatment, even reversal if the person seeks medical attention quickly. Our medics at Odessa Fire Rescue have been well trained in recognizing strokes and heart attacks and they can often get diagnostic tests and some interventions started as soon as they arrive to the patient’s home. This is far much faster and far much safer than driving to the emergency department yourself.

If you are concerned you may have metabolic syndrome, regardless of your age, please speak to your primary health care provider.