Understanding Metabolic Syndrome
One of the negative health effects of obesity is the development of medical conditions related to being overweight. While each of these obesity-related conditions present a risk for developing heart disease or diabetes, the risk increases substantially when several of these conditions occur together. Because of this increased risk, when two or more common obesity related conditions occur together, the term metabolic syndrome, or less commonly syndrome X, is used.
The components of metabolic syndrome are:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High blood sugar levels
- High triglycerides
- Low HDL or “good” cholesterol and high LDL or “bad” cholesterol
- High level of visceral (abdominal) fat
Each of the contributing conditions for metabolic syndrome has an influence on the health of your heart. When combined, the risk for cardiovascular disease becomes even higher. According to the American Heart Association, almost one in every six Americans have metabolic syndrome.
Having metabolic syndrome increases your risk for type-2 diabetes by five times that of a healthy individual.
Causes of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome develops when three of these five chronic conditions occur together. Each of these conditions, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and obesity are influenced by a collection of lifestyle factors, medical concerns and family history.
The primary risk factors for metabolic syndrome are:
- Family history of the disease
- Inactive lifestyle
- Diet rich in sugar and fat
- Being over the age of 60
Diagnosing Metabolic Syndrome
There is no specific test for metabolic syndrome. The condition is diagnosed when at least three of the following criteria are met:
- Blood pressure levels are 120/80 or above
- LDL cholesterol is higher than 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol is lower than 60 mg/dL
- Triglycerides are higher than 150 mg/dL
- Fasting blood sugar levels are high, indicating insulin resistance
The rise of obesity rates in the United States has made metabolic syndrome more prevalent. It is predicted that in the future, metabolic syndrome will replace smoking as the primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Treatment for Metabolic Syndrome
The goal of treatment is to correct the underlying health concerns that contribute to metabolic syndrome. This is often achieved through a combination of medical support, weight loss and healthy behavioral changes.
Treatment often incorporates:
- Weight loss support to manage blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- Dietary changes to reduce abdominal fat
- Regular physical activity
- Medications to control cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Metabolic syndrome is preventable. Even those with a strong family history of the condition can adopt healthy lifestyle habits to prevent the onset of the disease. Exercising daily, eating a diet rich in whole-foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains and avoiding excessive use of alcohol and tobacco can all help prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome.