Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes , when occurring together. These are:
- increased blood pressure,
- a high blood sugar level,
- excess body fat around the waist and
- abnormal cholesterol levels.
If you have just one of the above medical disorders you do not have metabolic syndrome, but it does mean you are still at an increased risk for developing one of the associated diseases. If you have a combination of two or more of the disorders you are at a very high risk of developing this condition and need to take pay extra attention to your lifestyle choices.
Signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome
- Being Overweight. A diagnosis of obesity must be present as one of the symptoms to be considered part of a metabolic syndrome. A waist circumference of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women can be considered obese.>
- High blood pressure. A blood pressure reading of anything above 130/85 (mm Hg)
- High blood sugar level. A fasting blood sugar level over 100 (mg/dL)
- High cholesterol. A reading of 150 mg/dl or higher for LDL and a reading of anything under 40 mg/dl for your HDL levels.
If you have even one of these symptoms you should visit with your doctor. You could have more than one symptom and not even know it. Even if your doctor finds you only have one of these symptoms, it is important to get that condition under control.
Causes of metabolic syndrome
- Being overweight is a big contributor
- Smoking. Smoking constricts blood vessels and can increase blood pressure. It can also effect the bodies use of insulin.
- Genetic factors. Some people may have an increased risk of developing insulin resistance if it runs in their family. Insulin resistance is when your body does not respond correctly to insulin. This means your body is not able to easily process sugar and a build-up of sugar can occur in your blood stream. Insulin’s role is to carry that sugar from the blood and put it into your muscles, fat and liver cells. When that doesn’t work properly you can develop diabetes.
Risk factors for metabolic syndrome
A history of increased blood pressure, heart disease, excess weight gain.
- Age. There is an increased risk in people over the age of 60. It affects a little less than 10 percent of those in their 20s. However, diet choices in youth can affect outcomes in later years. If there is a genetic risk, some signs of metabolic syndrome may present themselves in childhood.
- Race. There tends to be a higher risk for metabolic syndrome among Asians and Hispanics.
- Obesity. A body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 or a waist circumference of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women
- Hormonal imbalances in women. Imbalanced hormones can causes blood vessel weakening or constricting which can increase blood pressure. Certain hormone imbalances like polycystic ovarian syndrome can also increase a women’s chance of gaining weight.
Diagnosing metabolic syndrome
For women it is important to check your hormonal levels especially if you have a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome . Your physician will follow a list of guidelines that, if met, will determine your diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. The most common guidelines are as follows:
- Large waist circumference. A waist circumference of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women
- Triglyceride level (LDL- “bad” cholesterol) higher than 150 mg/dL
- HDL level (“good”- cholesterol) — less than 40 mg/dL men or less than 50 mg/dL in women.
- Increased blood pressure A blood pressure reading of at or above 130/85 (mm Hg)
- A fasting blood sugar level over 100 (mg/dL)
Treatment of metabolic syndrome
It can seem overwhelming when you have several symptoms occurring that need to be treated. Just take one step at a time and you will eventually meet your goal. Luckily when you work on one area it positively affects all of the other issues. Simply getting more exercise and losing some weight can help with all of the symptoms. It will help stabilize blood sugar levels, decrease blood pressure and improve cholesterol.
- Exercise. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. You can take a brisk walk or jog around the block. The exercise method you choose should be moderately strenuous. You should be able to make complete sentences but be at least mildly out of breath. If you’re new to exercise, start slowly.
- Lose weight. Losing just 5% of your body weight will greatly decrease your dangerous symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
- Eat healthy. Increase fruits and vegetables in your diet. Limit unhealthy fats. Eat fiber-rich foods. Make sure you include whole grains and beans. Food high in fiber can help lower your insulin levels. Choose white meat or fish over the more fatty meats, such as pork and beef. If you eat beef, go for the grass-fed variety. Don’t buy processed meats or cheeses. Avoid deep-fried foods. Minimize your use of table salt. You can try to flavor your food instead with herbs and spices.
- Stop smoking. Smoking will increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance
- See your doctor. Get regular check-ups for your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels to see where you stand.
Your physician may prescribe you medications as well. Continue to work with your doctor and ask plenty of questions. Let them know if you are having trouble following a meal or exercise plan and let them guide you towards the right resources.
Outcome of metabolic syndrome
If you don’t make the necessary changes to your lifestyle through diet and exercise your symptoms will continue to worsen. This can lead to a diagnosis of:
- Cardiovascular disease
Prevention is key. It is much easier to deal with the current symptoms you have rather than waiting until you have a diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.