What Is Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome, also known as Dysmetabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X, affects nearly one-third of Americans. While the exact cause of the syndrome remains unknown, there is a strong link to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Other than the obvious extra weight and possible fatigue, a patient with metabolic syndrome typically does not experience any other symptoms.
What conditions make up metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome, which can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, is comprised of a cluster of conditions:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased blood sugar levels
- Excess abdominal body fat
- Abnormal cholesterol
Doctors typically diagnose a patient with metabolic syndrome if they display three of these symptoms:
- A waist circumference of greater than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.
- Triglyceride levels greater than 150 mg/dL.
- HDL, so-called "good" cholesterol, levels less than 40 mg/dL in men or 50 mg/dL in women.
- Blood pressure greater than 130/85.
- Fasting blood sugar levels greater than 100 mg/dL.
What are the risk factors for metabolic syndrome?
Certain factors are found to increase a person's risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
These risk factors include:
Age -- Your risk of developing metabolic syndrome increases as you get older. In fact, approximately 40 percent of people over the age of 60 have metabolic syndrome.
Race -- Studies show a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome among Hispanic and Asian individuals.
Obesity -- Individuals who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for metabolic syndrome. This is especially true if the person tends to carry the extra weight around the abdomen.
Sedentary lifestyle -- A sedentary lifestyle predisposes you to obesity, which increases your risk of metabolic syndrome.
History of diabetes -- You are at greater risk for metabolic syndrome if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.
What is the treatment for metabolic syndrome?
Lifestyle and diet modification are usually the first step in treating metabolic syndrome. In most instances, doctors suggest patients implement the following healthy lifestyle habits:
Exercise -- Studies show that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily improves insulin sensitivity, which can help reduce blood sugar levels. Exercise has also been shown to increase good cholesterol levels and decrease triglycerides.
Lose weight -- Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces your chances of developing metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.
Eat healthily -- A diet rich in fruits, veggies, fish or chicken, and whole grains has been shown to decrease the risk for metabolic syndrome as well as heart disease. The Mediterranean and DASH diets are the most popular and tend to be easy to maintain for the long-term.
Stop smoking -- The dangers of smoking are well known. You should talk to your doctor if you have trouble stopping smoking. You doctor can recommend smoking cessation programs or even medications that may help you quit.
In cases where lifestyle modification does not resolve the condition, your doctor may prescribe medications to control blood pressure or improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
You should speak with your doctor if you believe you have any of the above risk factors; he or she can perform blood work and screenings to see if you have metabolic syndrome. You can then collaborate with your physician on the appropriate treatment regimen to reduce your risk of further health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
What are the Mediterranean and DASH Diets?
The Mediterranean diet is not what you would think of as a traditional diet. It is a way of eating that focuses on foods popular in countries around the Mediterranean. The diet emphasizes getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein such as fish. Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts and olive oil, are also allowed.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension. The diet emphasizes reducing sodium and eating foods high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium which can naturally lower blood pressure.