Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Ottawa: Research Awards totaling close to 3.6 million dollars from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario to Ottawa researchers will be celebrated Wednesday, May 26 at the Annual Research Reception, at the Centurion Center, 170 Colonnade Road South, at 6:30 p.m.

The Foundation's Annual Research Reception will be a unique opportunity to meet some of its top researchers including Dr. Alexander Sorisky.

"Heart and Stroke Foundation cardiologists and neurologists are among the researchers most frequently cited in the medical literature," says Dr. Gillian Kerr, Board Member, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. "It's quite an achievement and proves that every dollar collected is money well-spent."

New silent killer stalks Canadians

Ottawa cardiologists are appealing to family doctors to help battle a new silent killer that is stalking Canadians.

It is called Metabolic Syndrome and it is drastically increasing the number of heart attacks and strokes in Canada.

"Metabolic Syndrome is defined as the presence of three out of five key risk factors for heart disease and stroke," says Dr. Alexander Sorisky, a researcher with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Each risk factor, on its own, may require treatment but may not appear to be life threatening. Put three out of five of these 'low-grade" symptoms together and you have a recipe for potential heart attack and stroke, warns Dr. Sorisky.

Recent research shows that, over a ten-year period, men with undiagnosed or untreated metabolic syndrome have a 78% greater risk of strokes. For women with the syndrome, the risk is more than doubled.

"Metabolic Syndrome is widespread. Between one third and 40% of the Canadian population has some form of the syndrome. In the United States, 44% of the population over 50 years of age meets the criteria for Metabolic Syndrome," says Dr. Sorisky.

Up until now, Metabolic Syndrome has had a tendency to slip beneath the radar of the healthcare system because diagnosis is dependent not upon one clear-cut factor but upon a cluster of symptoms.

"Family doctors have been facing problems of definition and diagnosis but the numbers are in now. We are starting to get a better handle on the problem at last," says Dr. Sorisky.

Metabolic Syndrome is defined as the presence of three or more of the following risk factors:
  • Increased waist circumference (greater than 40 inches, 102 cm, for men: greater than 35 inches, 88 cm for women)
  • Elevated levels of triglycerides (blood fats)
  • Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Blood pressure (greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg)
  • Impaired fasting glucose (insulin resistance).

Dr. Sorisky says that the impaired fasting glucose measurements could be the key factor in the development of Metabolic Syndrome.

"That's a sign of insulin resistance. Although insulin is being made it is not able to act on important tissue and organs efficiently. This disruption is an important reason why we see the impaired handling of glucose, the lowering of "good" HDL cholesterol and the hypertension."

"Insulin resistance is associated with the excess body fat, especially abdominal obesity - apple shape rather than pear shape," he comments. "If you start putting weight on around your middle you should really go to your family doctor to be tested for the other signs that would lead to the diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome."

Lifestyle change, such as eating a healthy diet and being physically active, is the cornerstone for treatment strategies. Medications are available, if necessary, to deal with blood pressure problems, elevated cholesterol levels and insulin resistance.

"Metabolic Syndrome is an early warning sign of premature heart disease or a stroke. The good news is that risk factors can be effectively treated and people with the syndrome can expect to live a completely normal life," says Dr. Sorisky.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation leads the way towards greater understanding of the root causes of heart disease and stroke. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, almost 40% of Canadians will develop some form of heart disease and stroke over their lifetime. With our exponential growth in the aging population, it's critical to understand the underlying causes of these diseases. The knowledge gained from this type of research could allow for earlier diagnoses and better treatments, while providing Canadians with critical information on how to protect their health.


For more information:
Danielle Cote
BKT Health Promotion and Communications Inc.
T: (613) 737-9432

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