Metabolic Syndrome: Everything You Need to Know

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a medical condition. It is also known as syndrome X or insulin resistance.

People with metabolic syndrome are rising globally, but it is common in developed countries. For example, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 30% of people in the USA have MetS.

MetS is a combination of health issues that put you at risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.

The main reasons for developing MetS are changes in food habits and lifestyle. Nowadays, people have a more sedentary lifestyle.

This article explores metabolic syndrome’s reasons, effects, and management options.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health conditions that include central obesity (abdominal obesity), high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and insulin resistance of diabetes.

The MetS strongly associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. In addition, it increases the risk of chronic kidney disease, arthritis, several types of cancers and even early death.  

Other names of metabolic syndrome are Syndrome X, insulin resistance, and dysmetabolic syndrome.

What causes the metabolic syndrome?

The causation of the MetS is complex and multifactorial. The main reasons are intake of excess calories and physical inactivity.

Overeating and a sedentary lifestyle cause an increase in visceral fats (fat deposition around the abdomen).

The visceral fats and lack of physical activity lead to various biochemical and neurohormonal changes.

These changes lead to a vicious cycle of chronic inflammation, damage to the blood vessels (endothelial damage) and proliferation of fibroblasts.

Ultimately, these changes contribute to the development of insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, plaque formation in arteries, heart attack and stroke.

Other causes can contribute to the development of MetS, such as hormone imbalance seen in PCOS. Smoking is also a contributory cause of the metabolic syndrome.

How can I recognize the metabolic syndrome?

MetS or its underline disease collections do not have significant symptoms and signs in the initial stage.

This is one of the main issues with the MetS because people tend to ignore the subtle warning signs in the beginning.

Putting weight and becoming obese will be the first sign, and you need to understand that you are heading in the wrong direction.

It is central obesity or abdominal obesity that is more dangerous.

Some useful tools identify whether your weight is ideal for your height. BMI, waist circumference and waist to height are some useful indicators.

When you have these warning signs, discuss them with your healthcare provider.

What is the risk of metabolic syndrome?

The risk of having metabolic syndrome is that it increases the risk of diabetes and diseases of the heart and blood vessels (also called cardiovascular diseases).

MetS cause insulin resistance which leads to prediabetes and then full-blown diabetes mellitus. Diabetes is a complex disease which affects all the systems in the body.

High LDL and triglycerides (bad cholesterol) result in plaque formation (atherosclerosis) in arteries, narrowing the lumen. When a narrowed artery in the heart is clogged, it leads to a heart attack.

Further, atherosclerosis increases vascular resistance and spasm of the arteries resulting in elevated blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke.

Is there a treatment for metabolic syndrome?

Preventing metabolic syndrome (primary prevention) is the most prudent and cost-effective. The objective of treating MetS is to prevent the development of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

The preventive strategies involve lifestyle changes, and these include,

  • A healthy diet – fruits, vegetables, lean meat, fish and whole grains.
  • Stay physically active by performing at least 30 min of moderate-intensity exercise. Any form of exercise is better.
  • Maintain normal BMI. The normal range is between 19.9 to 24.9 kgm-2
  • Cut down alcohol intake
  • Quit smoking
  • Manage stress and get quality sleep at night

Once you develop the MetS, it requires managing associated health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia.

Once these conditions are diagnosed, management depends on their severity.

The Bottom Line

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease but a combination of different risk factors such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and/or diabetes and elevated bad cholesterols.

One of the earliest salient features is central obesity, and other features depend on the severity of underline health conditions such as diabetes.

Prevention of development of the MetS is the best and most cost-effective measure. A healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of the prevention of MetS.

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