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American Heart Health Month: Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

Heart healthMetabolic Syndrome, sometimes referred to as “Syndrome X,” may not be a health condition you’ve heard of before, but according to the American Heart Association, it’s a condition impacting 47 million Americans. This February, as we celebrate American Heart Health Month, take the time to familiarize yourself with the significance of this condition. In particular, if you or someone you love is currently battling drug addiction, they may be at a greater risk for developing this potentially deadly syndrome.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic Syndrome is not a disease, rather it’s a group of risk factors that, when presented together, put a patient at a heightened risk of experiencing a catastrophic event, or potentially deadly health incident. The risk factors identifiable in a patient suffering from Metabolic Syndrome include:

  • Abnormally low levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
  • Abnormally high levels of Triglycerides, which is a blood-born fat.
  • High blood pressure.
  • An unusually high blood glucose level as noted after a period of short-term fasting.
  • The presence of excessive amounts of abdominal fat.

Having three or more of these health conditions doubles your risk of blood vessel and heart disease, which can result in a heart attack or stroke. The presence of these risk factors also increases your risk of diabetes by five times.

Diagnosed only 20 years ago, doctors and health experts are still trying to understand all of the factors that can complicate this syndrome. What is known, however, is that substance abuse can put you at an increased risk of developing the risk factors that lead to this health complication.

The Impact of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Doctors agree that while not among the five risk factors that can contribute to a Metabolic Syndrome diagnosis, drug and alcohol abuse are indeed factors that can increase one’s risk of a diagnosis. Different drugs contribute to the syndrome’s risk factors in different ways:

  • Alcohol Abuse – May worsen one’s normal state of cardiovascular health.
  • Amphetamine Abuse – May result in nerve-related, and/or cardiovascular complications.
  • Methamphetamine Abuse – May cause energy-processing abnormalities, mental impairments, or even dental damage that can inhibit one’s ability to achieve optimal nutrition.

Not only does drug and alcohol abuse complicate risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome, those already diagnosed who continue to abuse drugs and alcohol could face even greater risks. For example, it’s been shown that individuals suffering from metabolic syndrome-related diabetes, who continue to abuse drugs and alcohol, are significantly less willing or able to follow their prescribed diabetic treatment plan. As a result, they are more likely to develop heart disease and/or debilitating nerve damage.

If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse, know that it’s never too late to begin walking the road to recovery. Don’t put yourself at risk for worsening health factors that could have devastating consequences. Contact the recovery team at Horizon Health Services today at (716) 831-1800.