- What is metabolic syndrome?
- Is metabolic syndrome a genuine condition?
- How is metabolic syndrome diagnosed?
- What causes metabolic syndrome?
- What are the risk factors?
- How is metabolic syndrome treated?
What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and resistance to insulin – which combine to increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Having just one of these conditions increases your risk of a serious disease. However in metabolic syndrome – when all the conditions are present together – your risk is even greater.
Is metabolic syndrome a genuine condition?
The grouping together of all of these conditions under the one heading, ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ is a relatively new concept – and there has been much debate among medical professionals over the exact definition of the syndrome and whether it is really a condition in its own right.
However, it is at least well accepted that some people do seem to have this clustering of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The term ‘metabolic syndrome’ is just a way of identifying those people at increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
How is metabolic syndrome diagnosed?
Since metabolic syndrome involves a number of different conditions, your doctor will diagnose each component of the syndrome (e.g., high blood pressure, high blood sugar) separately.
Different organisations around the world have suggested various different criteria for diagnosing metabolic syndrome. However, in general, if you are found to have a number of the following factors, you may be identified as having the disorder:
- Obesity – with high body fat around your waist
- High blood pressure
- High levels of triglycerides (a certain type of fat) in the blood,
- Low level of HDL – the ‘good’ cholesterol
- High blood glucose (sugar) level – due to insulin resistance
The more components of metabolic syndrome you have, the more you are at risk.
What causes metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is caused by a combination of both genetic and lifestyle factors – such as being overweight and a lack of exercise.
These factors trigger a chain of metabolic changes in the body, which is thought to begin with the body becoming resistant to a hormone called insulin. Insulin normally helps to control your blood sugar level – developing resistance to insulin is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance results in a higher than normal level of insulin and glucose (sugar) in your blood – which can then lead to high blood pressure and an increase in your blood fats.
What are the risk factors?
- Age – the prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age
- Race – Hispanic and Asian people seem to be at greater risk
- Family history of diabetes
- Obesity – especially high body fat around the waist (an ‘apple’ shape, rather than a ‘pear’ shape)
- Low activity level
- High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
- Hormone imbalance – for instance, polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with metabolic syndrome.
How is metabolic syndrome treated?
The main goal of treatment for metabolic syndrome is to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
The first step your doctor will probably recommend is to make lifestyle changes. These may include getting more physical activity, making changes to your diet and quitting smoking. This alone may be enough to reduce your insulin resistance and blood pressure, and stop the condition from progressing.
Your doctor may also prescribe you various medications to lower your blood pressure, control your cholesterol and treat your insulin resistance.
Reviewed: October 16, 2006
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