South Africa’s big problem: metabolic syndrome

2015-05-27 06:00

WITH South Africa now ranked as the third most obese nation in the world, approximately 80% of obese adults are likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Frighteningly, about 40% of normal­ weight adults may also have, or be at high risk of, metabolic syndrome.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Dr Peter Hill, of Met-S Care, a specialist in metabolic syndrome, says it is not a single disease, but rather a cluster of conditions. These conditions include, among others, increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level­, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol and blood fat levels.

It is diagnosed when three or more lifestyle-related chronic conditions or disorders are found together which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

“Not enough emphasis is being placed on metabolic syndrome,” says Dr Hill. “This is particularly concerning, particularly when you look at the alarming rise over the last 10 years in the burden of disease, specifically non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, depression, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and coronary artery disease and stroke.”

According to a report by The Council for Medical Schemes, in 2013 the number of medical scheme beneficiaries who were diagnosed with and treated for multiple CDL (Chronic Disease Listing) conditions increased by more than 25% and the number of beneficiaries with four or more CDL conditions increasing by about 78%, since 2012.

How to prevent metabolic syndrome

Dr Hill says the underlying and unifying metabolic dysfunction of metabolic syndrome appears to be insulin resistance. Insulin resistance leads to an imbalance in fat metabolism and, over time, this dysfunction may cause obesity and lead to the development other previously mentioned chronic diseases.

“This means that controlling and normalising insulin is key to improving metabolic syndrome health outcomes.”

One of the most effective ways to turnaround this pandemic is through self-care and not purely medical care.

“While medical care is of course important, self-care decisions about taking or not taking medicines, what to eat, how much exercise to get, what tests to do, keeping doctor appointments etc., are all decisions almost always made by the person with the chronic disease and not by their healthcare providers.

“We need to empower patients to be actively involved in their own care rather than being treated as passive recipients.

“On the correct programme patients will be in a position to identify disease-related needs; set health-related goals, discuss and agree on a treatment strategy, implement the interventions and monitor the outcomes,” concludes Dr Hill.

For more information, visit www.met

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