Metabolic Syndrome Causes Diabetes and Can Also Lead to Leg Pain


The Metabolic Syndrome is a group of risk factors that has been proven to increase a person’s risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke – now a new study  suggests that the metabolic syndrome may also increase a woman’s risk for developing peripheral artery disease (a narrowing of the blood vessels in the legs).  

 The Metabolic Syndrome is often referred to as “pre-diabetes.”  The risk factors for the Metabolic Syndrome include:

  • Waist Circumference greater than 35 inches in women, greater than 40 inches in men
  • HDL (good) cholesterol levels less than 50 mg/dl in women, less than 40 mg/dl in men
  • High blood pressure or blood pressure greater than 130/85
  • Fasting blood sugar greater than 100 mg/dl
  • Triglyceride levels greater than 150 mg/dl 

The Metabolic Syndrome is diagnosed if a person has three or more of the above risk factors. 

The Women’s Health Study followed over 27,000 women.  Results published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (Sept 2009) found an increased risk of peripheral artery disease in women who had the Metabolic Syndrome.  Women with the Metabolic Syndrome had higher levels of inflammation inside the blood vessel walls.  Inflammation has been found to be a risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke and the researchers suspect inflammation is also associated with the increased risk of leg artery disease.  Symptoms of peripheral artery disease include cramping and pain in the legs with activity and a heaviness in the legs, although many people are asymptomatic.

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Increased Testosterone (Not Decreased Estrogen) Causes Weight Gain in Menopausal Women


For years we have believed that pre-menopausal women were protected from heart disease and stroke by estrogen and when estrogen levels decreased after menopause this lead to the increased risk for heart disease.  A new study published in the August 2009 issue of Obesity suggests that changes in testosterone levels may play an important role.  The SWAN (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation) study examined the relation between testosterone blood levels and visceral fat in women at different stages of menopause.  They found that higher testosterone levels were more likely to be associated with increased visceral fat (belly fat) than lower estrogen levels.  Previous studies have reported an increased incidence of the metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) in women with higher testosterone levels.

 These are early results but suggest that increased levels of male hormones (testosterone) may be contributing to the weight gain, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol that occur around menopause. 

“Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” discusses how women can help control their cholesterol and other risk factors to prevent a heart attack, stroke and diabetes. “Take Charge: A Man’s Roadmap to a Healthier Heart” is due to be released Fall 2009. For more info visit

Sweetened drinks increase a woman’s risk for heart disease


 The Nurses Health Study evaluated over 88,000 women aged 34 to 59 over 24 years.  They recently reported that women who drank 2 or more sweetened beverages a day had a 35% increase in their risk for heart disease (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2009).  Sweetened beverages in this study included: Caffeinated and non-caffeinated colas and carbonated beverages with sugar.  The increased risk was not observed with artificially sweetened drinks.  The researchers believe that the sweetened beverages can increase triglycerol levels and this might be the cause of the heart problems.

 Enjoying an occasional sweetened beverage may be okay but – Moderation is Key!

 For more heart healthy info and New Women’s Heart Health book “Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” visit

Preventing Heart Disease in Women


The Power of Cinnamon



Not only does cinnamon taste good, it has some great health benefits for diabetic patients (and for non-diabetics too).  Several small studies and a few anecdotal reports show that cinnamon may help decrease blood sugar levels.  Researchers are not exactly sure how the cinnamon helps improve blood sugar levels, but one thought is that it may slow the digestion rate from the stomach, which improves insulin sensitivity.  Several small studies also report reductions in cholesterol levels with daily cinnamon intake. The studies that showed the positive health benefits used ground cinnamon, not cinnamon pills.  There was one small study that stated there was no change in blood sugar levels in post-menopausal women using cinnamon pills.

So, we recommend a daily intake of 1-2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon daily.  Sprinkle it in your coffee, cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt or on an apple (to make it taste like apple pie).  Enjoy the health benefits of this tasty spice!

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The Metabolic Syndrome is an Important Stroke Risk Factor that is Often Under-Recognized in Women


The metabolic syndrome is a group of interrelated risk factors that when present can predispose women to stroke, heart disease and diabetes.  The metabolic syndrome is often referred to as “pre-diabetes”.  Approximately 23% of men and women in the United States have the metabolic syndrome.  Minority women are more prone to develop the metabolic syndrome and therefore may be at a greater risk for stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.  The metabolic syndrome has received a tremendous amount of attention from the health care research communities over the past several years but this information may not be reaching the appropriate people.

We decided to study the metabolic syndrome risk factors in women to determine their risk for stroke, heart disease and diabetes. In this study we evaluated 535 women for the presence of risk factors.  (This data was presented at the American Stroke Association Conference in San Diego, February 2009)  The metabolic syndrome risk factors evaluated were: fasting blood sugar level, waist circumference, fasting triglyceride level, high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) level, and blood pressure.  Diagnosis of the metabolic syndrome was based on the modified National Cholesterol Education Adult Treatment Panel III criteria.  Of the 535 women we evaluated, 25% (135 women) met the criteria for the metabolic syndrome.  Criteria for the metabolic syndrome occurred in the following percentages of patients: 48% had an elevated fasting blood sugar level, 92% had a waist circumference greater than 35 inches, 60% had an elevated Triglyceride level, 75% had an elevated blood pressure, 67% had a low HDL.  Eighty nine percent (120 women) of the women diagnosed with the metabolic syndrome had a primary care physician.  Less than 10% of the 120 women with a primary care physician had been previously diagnosed with the metabolic syndrome by their physician, if they had not attended our screening this diagnosis would have been missed. Our study concluded that – One of the key prevention strategies of stroke, diabetes and heart disease is the early diagnosis and treatment of the metabolic syndrome risk factors.  If waist circumferences were not measured in our patients the diagnosis of the Metabolic Syndrome would have been missed in 46% of these women.  In order to prevent the development of stroke, diabetes and heart disease waist circumference should be measured during regular physical exams. 

Do you know your waist measurement??? When was the last time you checked your waist measurement???

Women should have a waist circumference less than 35 inches, and men a waist circumference less than 40 inches.

If you do not know your risk for the metabolic syndrome please ask your healthcare provider during your next office visit.

For more information about heart disease, risk factors, and our new book about Women and Heart Disease visit

Can Vegetable Juice Promote Weight Loss?


       vegetable juice     A recent study of 81 adults (mostly women who had the metabolic syndrome, which is “pre-diabetes”) reported greater weight loss when vegetable juice was consumed daily. People in this study who drank 8 ounces of vegetable juice daily lost 4 pounds over 12 weeks whereas those who followed the same diet but did not drink veggie juice only lost 1 pound.  All the participants followed the American Heart Association DASH diet.  The DASH diet recommends a high intake of fruits and vegetables, high fiber, low fat, low salt and low fat dairy.  The DASH diet is considered a low fat and low salt diet that can help control or prevent high blood pressure.

            This is a preliminary study and more research is needed but drinking “low salt” vegetable juice every day is a great way to increase your intake of vegetables and may help shed some extra pounds.

 For more info on the DASH diet visit

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