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On the right path

You need at least three conditions to have Syndrome X, and Jonathan “Bubba” Wilkes had four – if you don’t count heredity.

Being overweight with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure allowed Bubba to qualify for what is also called metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance syndrome. Throw in Bubba’s fourth sign of abnormal low cholesterol and you have “The perfect cocktail for a major cardiac event,” according to Bubba himself.

Bubba, 48, of Foresthill, was a former CDF firefighter with a desk job because of past injuries. A sedentary decade and a Mickey D’s diet had him at 315 pounds, “a walking time bomb, basically.”



His physician, Dr. Huy Nguyen, “scared the life into me” and put Bubba back on a regimen for life instead of the death path he was on. They started by enrolling Bubba in the “Heart Smart” exercise classes at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley and reintroduced him to fresh fruit and vegetables.

After three months, Bubba wasn’t ready for the Olympics, but he had more vigor, drive and ambition for good health than he had had before.




“He’s lost 30 pounds since he started,” said Robin Wright Mallery, the coordinator at the hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation center. Mallery and her employees got Bubba into some major lifestyle management changes, including exercise, nutrition and stress management.

Bubba comes to class a couple of times a week and has joined a gym for off days. He also carries bags of salad and fruit around to dodge double cheeseburgers.

“I weigh 284 today,” Bubba said recently after pedaling on a stationary bike-type machine. “I don’t want to lose more than 10 pounds a month because if you do, you can run the risk of losing lean muscle mass instead of fat.”

He also “found a part of the grocery store I didn’t know existed” and now eats organic grains, fruits and vegetables instead of fast food.

“I feel fantastic,” Bubba said. “My energy level has just soared.”

It hasn’t been as bad as Bubba thought it might, because of “simplify things you can change. Like selecting a parking spot. I used to look for the primo spot, but now, I park as far away as I can so I can walk and add to my exercise regimen.”

According to an article written for Diabetes Care Magazine, one in five overweight people has Syndrome X and is at a higher risk rate for heart disease, diabetes and early death. Doctors immediately tell the patients to change their diets and exercise.

In a Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study done on 19,000 men and cited in the magazine, those who weighed more had a greater chance of getting metabolic syndrome and dying young.

The Mayo Clinic’s Web site said that Syndrome X research is in its infancy, and not all doctors agree about its definition. But most have talked about the mix of risk factors adding up to a condition that is becoming more prevalent in society.

According to Mallery, Bubba has another malady that adds to his cocktail – elevated inflammation inside his arteries that wear the lining down and allow fat and plaque a place to cling to.

“He’s got a ways to go, but he’s avoiding bypass surgery,” Mallery said. “Bubba is truly a primary prevention patient. He was a time bomb, but now he’s moving in the right direction.”

Bubba also has his past to haunt him. His father had a heart attack at 47, and he did not want lightning to strike twice.

“I had to make the lifestyle changes or suffer the consequences,” Bubba said. “I have insulin resistance, where the muscles resist glucose. The sedentary lifestyle stops you from burning up glucose.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, that increased amount of insulin in the body raises triglyceride and other blood fats and can harm your kidneys and cause blood pressure to soar.

Researchers think some people, like Bubba, are genetically prone to insulin resistance, inheriting it from parents.

Environmental factors might also play a part, and being overweight and sedentary are big factors.

The Mayo Clinic doctors tell those who have metabolic syndrome to walk briskly for thirty to 60 minutes a day, lose 5 to 10 percent of body fat and stop smoking. Drinking alcohol may also add to the problem and should be moderated, the clinic said.

Eating fish and chicken more often can help; beef should be lean and eaten less often. Fried and processed foods are to be avoided, and spices should be substituted for salt.

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To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

Signs of Syndrome X

The following reasons increase your chance of getting Syndrome X:

• Aging

• Hispanic or Asian ancestry

• Obesity

• A history of diabetes

• An existing disease, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

• Having a waist size larger than 40 inches for men and 35 for women.

– The Mayo Clinic


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