Metabolic syndrome – ever heard of it? It only came on the scene in 1998 but 47 million US citizens have it. If you want to know more about it, this article contains the facts about metabolic syndrome.
What is Metabolic Syndrome
Believe it or not metabolic syndrome, also known as syndrome X is not a disease. It is a group of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Because of this, it is debated by the medical experts because not all doctors agree that metabolic syndrome should be viewed as a distinct condition.
The American Heart Association (AHA) concludes that 23 percent of adults in the US currently have metabolic syndrome.
What is the cause of Metabolic Syndrome
The five (5) risk factors are:
- high blood sugar levels (insulin resistance)
- increased blood pressure (greater than 130/85 mmHg)
- excess fat around the waist
- low levels of good cholesterol, or HDL
- high triglyceride levels
It is important to note that having one of these risk factors does not indicate having metabolic syndrome. However, having one will increase chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Having three or more will result in a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome and it will increase the risk of health problems.
There are underlying conditions that lead to the above risk factors that are detailed below.
- Insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use glucose — a simple sugar made from the food we eat — as energy. In people with insulin resistance, the insulin doesn’t work as well; as a result the body keeps making more and more of it to cope with the rising level of glucose. Eventually, this can lead to diabetes. Insulin resistance is closely connected to having excess weight within the belly.
- Obesity –– especially abdominal obesity. The experts say that metabolic syndrome is becoming more frequent because of the increasing obesity rates. Additionally, having extra fat in the belly — as opposed to elsewhere in the body — seems to increase the risk. For more on obesity, read the article: All About Obesity
- Harmful lifestyle. Eating a diet high in unhealthy processed foods and not getting enough physical activity can be a contributing factor.
- Hormonal imbalance. Hormones may also play a role. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) — a condition that affects fertility — is related to hormonal imbalance and metabolic syndrome.
- Smoking. Smoking causes a plethora of health issues and metabolic syndrome is on the list as well.
There are other risk factors that can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome: age, family history of metabolic syndrome.
Additionally, the syndrome tends to run in families and is more frequent among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans.
The complications of Metabolic Syndrome
The problems that can result from metabolic syndrome are commonly serious and long-term (chronic). They include:
- hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- cardiovascular disease
- heart attack
- peripheral artery disease
- kidney disease
- nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Should diabetes develop, an individual may be at risk for additional health complications, including:
- kidney disease
- nerve damage (neuropathy)
- eye damage (retinopathy)
- amputation of limbs
How is Metabolic Syndrome determined
To identify metabolic syndrome, a physician will need to perform several different tests. The results of these tests will be used to look for three (3) or more signs of the disorder. The doctor may check one or more of the following:
- blood pressure
- fasting blood triglycerides
- cholesterol levels
- fasting glucose level
- waist perimeter
Irregularities recorded on three or more of these tests will point toward the presence of metabolic syndrome.
Treatment of Metabolic Syndrome
The good news is that metabolic syndrome is controlled, largely with
changes to your lifestyle.
In most cases, the best treatment for metabolic syndrome rests with the individual. Changes to their behavior — such as healthier eating and getting further exercise — are the first things a physician will suggest. By adopting some healthier habits, one may be able to eliminate their risk factors completely.
- Exercise. Start slowly.
- Eat a healthier diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low fat dairy, and go light on the saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt.
- If you smoke, quit smoking – NOW!
- If you’re overweight, lose it.
- Schedule regular checkups with your doctor.
The overall perspective for people with metabolic syndrome can be quite good if symptoms are managed. Individuals who take their doctor’s advice, eat right, exercise, stop smoking, and lose weight will reduce their chances of developing serious health problems such as a heart attack or stroke.
Although symptom management can reduce health complications, most people with this condition have a long-term risk of cardiovascular disease. If you develop this condition, you’ll be required to be monitored by your doctor to assist preventing serious health problems like heart failure and stroke.
Bottom line: If you’ve just been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you might be anxious. But think of it as a wake-up call. That means it’s time to get serious about improving your health. Making straightforward changes to your lifestyle now can prevent severe illness in the future.
We need to take a different approach to our health overall. Conditions such as this can be prevented for the most part of we take a proactive approach to our healthcare rather than a reactive approach. Common place is for us to address a health issue after it has occurred rather than to head it off in the first place. Some of us take better care of our cars than our bodies. It isn’t just how long we live, but how well.
Prevention is always better than cure!
Questions, comments and concerns are welcomed below.