Mid-life comes with so many wonderful surprises: irregular periods, hot-flashes, mood swings and, oh yes let's not forget, that gradually increasing waistline.
We write it off as just another side-effect of changing hormone levels and, as we struggle to zip up our jeans, we shake our heads and sigh. It's just what we women have to put up with . . . or is it?
It turns out that our increasing girth despite exercise and healthy eating may be a sign of an underlying problem called Syndrome W. Now if you've become a couch potato and your loading up on the chips and salsa or ice cream sandwiches after the kids go to bed, Syndrome W is probably not your problem. But, if you have kept yourself in shape, exercised regularly and ate right and you have still, mysteriously, seen your weight increasing, your waist-line growing and your energy level bottoming out, then this is something you might need to look into.
Harriette Mogul, the director of research of adult endocrinology at New York Medical College, discovered that many normally slim and fit women were coming to her and presenting with slightly elevated blood pressure, unexplained weight gain and fatigue. Thinking that their shifting hormone levels were to blame, they were looking for hormone supplementation. All of these women had normal blood sugar levels, but Dr. Mogul thought to look where others had not.
Glucose tests are very common and once the results come up normal, the idea of blood sugar issues is often disregarded, but Dr. Mogul decided that insulin levels also deserved a look. What she found is that many of these women had normal glucose levels but elevated insulin levels.
What does all of this mean? Insulin works as a taxi service taking proteins to your muscle cells, fats to your fat cells and excess glucose to your fat or liver cells to be stored for later when you need it. But what happens when your body's cells fail to open the door when insulin comes knocking? Your body tries to force the issue by producing more and more insulin. Eventually the body's cells respond but only after your bloodstream has become totally overloaded with insulin. The insulin that isn't being used floats around and does damage to your cardiovascular system.
Elevated insulin levels aren't just bad for your figure, their bad for your health. Insulin resistance can make you feel and look bad now and can also be a precursor to full-blown diabetes. So now what?
Dr. Mogul has found that once a woman's insulin levels are tested and found to be elevated, treatment is easy and effective. The patient is put on an unrestricted calorie, low carbohydrate diet and may also be given the diabetes drug metformin which encourages your cells to be more responsive to the insulin you produce. The results? Weight loss, an increase in energy levels and a decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.
How do you know if this regimen might help you? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you in your mid-thirties to mid-fifties?
- Despite regular exercise and a healthy diet, have you gained twenty or more pounds, or two or more inches on your waist, since you were in your twenties?
- Is the weight gain primarily in your abdominal area?
- Has your blood pressure begun to show signs of becoming elevated?
- Are you fatigued?
- Do you find that your appetite is becoming irregular - food cravings, increased hunger, binging on sweets or carbs?
If you think that Syndrome W might be responsible for your increasing size and flagging energy, ask your doctor to test your blood glucose and, most importantly, your insulin levels. If your blood sugar is normal but your insulin levels are elevated, talk to your doctor about Syndrome W, but be prepared, he or she may know little about it. Search on-line and bring some educational materials with you. What you and your doctor learn together may just make a real difference in your life.