Reversing the Risk

Have you ever heard of metabolic syndrome? It is a cluster of health disorders that converge as a kind of perfect storm, putting individuals diagnosed with this medical phenomenon at greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Central among this group of conditions is obesity, which, along with insulin resistance, acts as a catalyst for fat to accumulate in the liver –a mounting public health problem. But thin people can also be affected if they cannot process fat or sugar properly. So weight is not always the “red flag” indicator.

I attended a fascinating program on this topic at SMU’s HR Roundtable – featuring Dr. Jay Horton, who leads a major multi-disciplinary research initiative funded by a $23 million NIH roadmap grant at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas.

Employers and insurers are keenly interested in this topic, as 4% of insurance claimants comprise 60% of total claims, at a $10,000 and above level, according to Holmes Murphy, a risk management and insurance brokerage firm.

Who is likely to enter this big event category? That’s the tricky part. Many new major claims will come from the undiagnosed. And the really scary part: Half of those will be hit by a heart attack or sudden death. Therefore, identifying those in the next pool of high risk claimants is a major concern — to both the individual at risk, as well as the employer.

Metabolic Syndrome can be traced to five core risk factors:

  • HDL Cholesterol – lower than 40 for men; lower than 50 for women
  • Triglycerides – higher than 150
  • Waist Circumference (not pants size) >40 inches (men); >35 inches (women)
  • Blood Pressure >=130/85
  • Fasting Glucose >= 100

If an individual is out-of-range in 3 or more areas, there is a 720% higher risk of a major health problem within 36 months than someone with 2 or less out-of-range.

Companies are pioneering 10-week programs that incorporate screenings, education and exercise to reverse disease paths. The goal is to improve the well-being of employees and to manage the spikes in medical coverage costs.

This is a strategic barometer that can help anyone prioritize how to “move the needle” and avoid a catastrophic incident. You may not have a perfect profile. But start working on one area, then attack another.

Key message to all: Avoid the trifecta.

What an eye-opener.

copyright 2009 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene