Metabolic syndrome is a common pattern in the body’s overall metabolism. It is not a disease, but is a cluster of disorders of our body’s metabolism — including high blood pressure, high insulin levels, excess body weight and abnormal cholesterol levels. Each of these disorders is by itself a risk factor for other diseases. In combination, though, these disorders dramatically boost our chances of developing potentially life-threatening illnesses. It is thus a collection of health risks that increase the chance of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is a reasonably recent phenomenon and its causes, although not entirely understood, include environmental factors. This means that something has changed in the environment to promote obesity, hypertension, and insulin resistance and so on. Examples of environmental changes that may have contributed to the metabolic syndrome include a marked reduction (by most people) in physical activity, and an increase in the number of meals eaten away from home particularly foods that are rich in saturated fat and salt.
Metabolic syndrome creates a real risk of developing diabetes, stroke or heart disease. The good news is that we have been given advance notice, so we can do something about it. We can curb our insulin resistance by making these lifestyle changes. Improved diet, weight loss, and increased physical activity are very imperative if we have metabolic syndrome.
First and foremost, if we are undergoing treatment for any of the components of metabolic syndrome or for the actual diseases associated with it, such as diabetes or heart disease, it is essential that we take the advice of our professional health carer(s). Our doctor and/or dietitian know our particular circumstances and can prescribe treatment that is tailored to best meet our requirements.
Who typically has metabolic syndrome?
There are three groups of people who are prone to have metabolic syndrome:
o People with diabetes who cannot maintain a proper level of glucose (glucose intolerance)
o People without diabetes who have high blood pressure and who also secrete large amounts of insulin (hyperinsulinemia) to maintain blood glucose levels
o Heart attack survivors who have hyperinsulinemia without glucose intolerance
Identification of metabolic syndrome
The metabolic syndrome is identified by the presence of three or more of these components which has been showed in the table below:
Central obesity as measured by waist circumference:
Men — Greater than 40 inches
Women — Greater than 35 inches
Fasting blood triglycerides greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL
Blood HDL cholesterol:
Men — Less than 40 mg/dL
Women — Less than 50 mg/dL
Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg
Fasting glucose greater than or equal to 110 mg/dL
Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome:
The list of symptoms mentioned in various sources for Metabolic Syndrome includes:
o Type 2 diabetes
o Impaired glucose tolerance – a milder form of pre-Type 2 diabetes.
o Hypercholesterolemia, high triglycerides, low HDL
o Abdominal obesity
Usually, there are no immediate physical symptoms; the syndrome’s associated medical problems develop over time. If you are unsure if you have metabolic syndrome, see your health care provider. He or she will be able to make the diagnosis by ordering the necessary tests.
Causes of metabolic syndrome:
The root cause of most cases of metabolic syndrome can be traced back to:
Poor eating habits
Individual already diagnosed with hypertension
Person with poorly controlled diabetes
A few are thought to be linked to genetic factors too that are still being researched.
If one has metabolic syndrome, his/her body experiences a series of biochemical changes. Over time, these changes lead to the development of one or more associated medical conditions. The sequence begins when insulin, a hormone excreted from the pancreas, loses its ability to make the body’s cells absorb glucose from the blood – the body uses glucose for energy. When this happens, glucose levels remain high after eating. The pancreas, sensing a high glucose level in the blood, continues to excrete insulin. Loss of insulin production may be genetic or secondary to high fat levels with fatty deposits in the pancreas
Consistently high levels of insulin and glucose are linked to many harmful changes to the body, including:
(1) Damage to the lining of coronary and other arteries, a key step toward the development of heart disease or stroke
(2) Changes in the kidneys’ ability to remove salt, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke
(3) An increase in triglyceride levels, resulting in an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease
(4) An increased risk of blood clot formation, which can block arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes
(5) A slowing of insulin production, which can signal the start of Type 2 diabetes, a disorder that can increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke and may damage the eyes, nerves or kidneys
Risk factors for metabolic syndrome
The following are the risk factors of metabolic syndrome:
The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age, affecting less than 10 percent of people in their 20s and 40 percent of people in their 60s.
Metabolic syndrome is more common among blacks and Mexican- Americans than among Caucasians.
A body mass index (BMI) — a measure of the percentage of body fat based on height and weight — greater than 25 increases the risk of metabolic syndrome.
History of diabetes
An individual is more likely to have metabolic syndrome if he/she has a family history of Type 2 diabetes or a history of diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes).
A diagnosis of hypertension, cardiovascular disease or polycystic ovary syndrome — a hormonal disorder in which a woman’s body produces an excess of male hormones — also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome.
Treatment list for Metabolic Syndrome:
The list of treatments mentioned in various sources for Metabolic Syndrome includes the following list. Always seek professional medical advice about any treatment or change in treatment plans.
Management of metabolic syndrome:
Steps for managing the metabolic syndrome are:
o Routinely monitor body weight, blood glucose, lipoproteins and blood pressure.
o Treat individual risk factors (hyperlipidemia, hypertension and high blood glucose) according to established guidelines.
o Carefully choose anti-hypertensive drugs because different agents have different effects on insulin sensitivity.
How to prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome?
Some of the ways through which one can reduce the risk include:
Losing as little as 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce insulin levels and high blood pressure, and decrease your risk of diabetes
Physical activity is the corner stone of the ‘health at any size’ movement. Increased activity alone can improve the body’s insulin levels. By taking part in just 30 minutes of moderately vigorous activity such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, lightweight training and so on daily can result in a weight loss, improved blood pressure, cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of developing diabetes.
Consider dietary changes
Maintain a diet that keeps carbohydrates to no more than 50 percent of total calories. Eat foods defined as complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, brown rice and sugars that are unrefined, for example cookies and crackers. Increase your fiber consumption for example beans. Make sure your grocery cart includes whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Reduce your intake of red meats and poultry. 30 to 45% of your daily calories can come from fat, but consume healthy fats, such as those in canola oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil and nuts.
Limit alcohol intake
Consume not more than one drink a day for women or two drinks for men.
Quit smoking (if you are a smoker)
Kicking the cigarette habit is one of the healthiest lifestyle alterations that can be made by a person who smokes. Smoking is associated with increased risk of heart disease in addition to other conditions not directly related to metabolic syndrome, including lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema and impotence.
Reduce stress levels
Although not necessarily a direct cause of metabolic syndrome, our increasingly busy lifestyles and other sources of stress have profound influence on health outcome. Light physical activity, meditation, yoga, music and/or other relaxation techniques can all be used to reduce stress.
Take any medications prescribed by doctor
Taking medications as prescribed by doctors will assist us to control the blood pressure, improve levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides, aid with appetite control and body fat reduction, assist in smoking cessation and/or help with stress management.
Although the incidence of metabolic syndrome is increasing, the situation is far from hopeless. Clearly, if the environment can be changed in one direction, those changes are reversible and the metabolic syndrome can be overcome