Do you remember when “hypertension” was the silent killer of the 70’s? Well, there is one now that has been identified for less than 20 years but is now as common as hemorrhoids and pimples. You may have heard it called the frightening name of syndrome X, or what is now more commonly referred to as Metabolic Syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome seems to be a condition that many people have, but no one knows very much about. It's also debated by the experts -- not all doctors agree that metabolic syndrome should be viewed as a distinct condition.
So, what is this mysterious syndrome?
Metabolic Syndrome isn’t really a disease, it is more of a group of risk factors -- high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat.
Clinicians have traditionally evaluated each of the major risk factors contributing to Metabolic syndrome on an individual basis. There is evidence, however, that the risk factors are more than just the sum of their parts.
Obviously, having any one of these risk factors isn't good. But when they're combined, they set the stage for serious problems. These risk factors double your risk of blood vessel and heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. They increase your risk of diabetes by five times.
In a commentary published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics
, researchers from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University describe how being overweight and obesity contribute to Metabolic syndrome, which affects 1 in 3 adults and about 40 percent of adults aged 40 and older.
The syndrome runs in families and is more common among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. The risks of developing Metabolic syndrome increases as you age.
"The pandemic of obesity, which begins in childhood, is deeply concerning," said Parvathi Perumareddi, D.O., an assistant professor of integrated medical science in the Florida Study referenced above. "Adolescents today are more obese and less physically active than their parents and already have higher rates of type 2 diabetes. It is likely that the current generation of children and adolescents in the U.S. will be the first since 1960 to have higher mortality rates than their parents due mainly to cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke."
"Visceral fat and its clinically more easily measured correlate of waist circumference are gaining increasing attention as strong predictors of metabolic syndrome even if you remove body mass index from the equation," said Dawn H. Sherling, M.D., one of the researchers from the Florida Hospital referenced above. "There are patients who have a normal body mass index yet are at high risk. These patients represent an important population for clinicians to screen for metabolic syndrome.
The doctors further caution that individuals with metabolic syndrome are largely asymptomatic but have a 10-year risk of a first coronary event, based on the Framingham Risk Score of 16 to 18 percent, which is nearly as high as a patient who already has experienced a prior coronary event. Furthermore, they are concerned that metabolic syndrome is both underdiagnosed and undertreated.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, approximately two-thirds of adults age 20 or older are overweight or obese with body mass indexes (BMI) greater than 25, and nearly one-third have BMIs greater than 30. Less than one-third of them are at a healthy weight with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. Estimated medical costs of obesity are as high as $147 billion a year for 2008, or almost 10 percent of all medical spending.
These researchers from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University make the case that metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of three of more risk factors that include abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, abnormal lipids, and insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes can be deadly. As it turns out, the "love handle" can be fatal.
What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?
Experts aren't sure why metabolic syndrome develops. It's a collection of risk factors, not a single disease. So, it probably has many different causes. Some risk factors are:
Insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use glucose -- a simple sugar made from the food you eat -- as energy. In people with insulin resistance, the insulin doesn't work as well, so your body keeps making more and more of it to cope with the rising level of glucose. Eventually, this can lead to diabetes. Insulin resistance is closely connected to having excess weight in the belly.
Obesity -- especially abdominal obesity. Experts say that metabolic syndrome is becoming more common because of rising obesity rates. In addition, having extra fat in the belly -- as opposed to elsewhere in the body -- seems to increase your risk.
Unhealthy lifestyle. Eating a diet high in unhealthy processed foods and not getting enough physical activity can play a role.
Hormonal imbalance. Hormones may play a role. For instance, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) -- a condition that affects fertility -- is related to hormonal imbalance and metabolic syndrome.
Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome
According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are five risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome.
Large Waist Size
For men: 40 inches or larger
For women: 35 inches or larger
Cholesterol: High Triglycerides
Either 150 mg/dL or higher or Using a cholesterol medicine
Cholesterol: Low Good Cholesterol (HDL)
Either For men: Less than 40 mg/dL
For women: Less than 50 mg/dL or Using a cholesterol medicine
High Blood Pressure
Either Having blood pressure of 135/85 mm Hg or greater or Using a high blood pressure medicine
Blood Sugar: High Fasting Glucose Level
100 mg/dL or higher
To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you would have at least three
of these risk factors.
If you've just been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you might be anxious. But think of it as a wake-up call. It's time to get serious about improving your health. Making simple changes to your habits now can prevent serious illness in the future.
If you choose to make those changes the first place to go is our 60 Day Challenge
. This gentle approach will walk you through making healthy lifestyle choices whether you are an at-home mom, a truck driver or a professional businessperson. If you value your health, give it 60 Days
and you will find noticeable improvements that will encourage you to make those changes for a lifetime.