What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a condition that includes the presence of a cluster of risk factors specific for cardiovascular disease. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), metabolic syndrome significantly raises the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and/or stroke.

Most people who have metabolic syndrome have insulin resistance. The body makes insulin to move glucose (sugar) into cells for use as energy. Obesity, commonly found in people with metabolic syndrome, makes it more difficult for cells to respond to insulin. If the body cannot make enough insulin to override the resistance, the blood sugar level increases and diabetes can result. Metabolic syndrome may be a beginning of the development of type 2 diabetes.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recognizes metabolic syndrome as a problem of growing concern, especially for those older than 60. Research suggests that more than 47 million Americans have it. Because the population of the United States is aging, and because metabolic syndrome prevalence increases with age, the AHA has estimated that metabolic syndrome soon will become the primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease, ahead of cigarette smoking. Increasing rates of obesity are also thought to be related to the increasing rates of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic Syndrome Indicators

You may have metabolic syndrome if you have 3 or more of these indicators:

•    Abdominal obesity, in which the waist circumference measures more than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men.
•    High blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) or higher.
•    Elevated fasting blood glucose level equal to or greater than 100 MG/DL
•    High triglyceride levels of more than 150 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood.
•    HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) of less than 40 mg/dl for men and less than 50 mg/dl for women

Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors

Risk factors most closely associated with metabolic syndrome include:

•    Age. The incidence of metabolic syndrome increases with age.
•    Ethnicity. African-Americans and Mexican Americans are more prone to metabolic syndrome. African-American women are about 60 percent more likely than African-American men to have the syndrome.
•    Body mass index (BMI) greater than 25. The BMI is calculated as a measure of body fat compared to height and weight.
•    Personal or family history of diabetes. Women who have experienced diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or people who have a family member with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk for metabolic syndrome.
•    Smoking
•    History of heavy drinking
•    Stress
•    Postmenopausal status
•    High-fat diet
•    Sedentary lifestyle

Treating Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic Syndrome is a multifaceted condition.  Therefore, treating it involves an overall lifestyle modification including diet and exercise to tackle the individual risk factors, such as high LDL, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure.  Controlling these risk factors are critical to treating metabolic syndrome.  If they cannot be controlled through diet and exercise, medication therapy as well as weight loss surgery may be additional treatment options recommended by your doctor.  Additionally, if you smoke, stop.  Smoking greatly increases your risk of developing heart disease, thus negating your efforts to combat metabolic syndrome.