What Does It Mean?
What does 'metabolic syndrome' mean?
Metabolic syndrome is a condition in which a group of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) and type 2 diabetes occur together.
Although it doesn't have a universally accepted definition, most health professionals would include the following as the principal components: Abdominal obesity (i.e. excess body fat in the region of the stomach); High blood pressure (also known as 'hypertension'); Low blood levels of the 'good' cholesterol, HDL; High blood levels of the 'bad' cholesterol, LDL; High blood levels of triglycerides; and Insulin resistance (that is, an impaired ability of the body's insulin to handle blood glucose).
People with three or more of the above symptoms can be considered to have the metabolic syndrome, greatly increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease and/or type 2 diabetes, two of the most pervasive diseases in Western populations.
How common is the metabolic syndrome?
Although its exact frequency isn't known, the condition is widespread among the adult population in developed nations, and increases in frequency with age. For example, a study in the United States found that about 7% of adults aged 20-29 years had metabolic syndrome, while 43% of those in the age group 60-69 were affected.
So nearly half of the adults aged 60-69 had the syndrome. But this study was based on results obtained in the period 1988-1994, when the rate of obesity was much less than now. The rate of metabolic syndrome among American adults is almost certainly greater now than it was at the time of that study.
It is also starting to appear in affluent adults who have adopted Western diets and lifestyles in developing nations. However, it isn't just adults who are affected - the condition is also afflicting an increasing number of children and adolescents as the worldwide epidemic of obesity spreads across the age groups.
For example, a recent US study found that 20-25% of obese children and adolescents also exhibited insulin resistance, a key element of metabolic syndrome and the condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes.
What are the health implications of having metabolic syndrome?
Each of the components of metabolic syndrome acts to significantly increase the risk of developing one or more diseases. As examples, excess abdominal fat is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease; hypertension is the most important risk factor for stroke; high blood LDL and low HDL increase the risk of heart disease.
Insulin resistance can be the first step on the road to type 2 diabetes. In brief, having type 2 diabetes significantly increases the risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease and blindness, and also of having to undergo limb amputations (due to gangrene).
The rapid increase in incidence of metabolic syndrome, not only among adults but also in children and adolescents, represents a potential 'time bomb' for the future adult populations of developed nations.
Effective preventive measures are needed for the entire population, and ways of reducing the incidence of metabolic syndrome among adults (mainly) are also urgently needed.
What can be done to reduce my risk of developing metabolic syndrome?
First and foremost, if you 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 you take the advice of your professional health care provider.
Your doctor and/or dietitian know your particular circumstances and can prescribe treatment that is tailored to best meet your requirements. The advice provided in the remainder of this FAQ is of a general nature only.
Although the incidence of metabolic syndrome is increasing, the situation is far from hopeless. 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, 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).
Clearly, if the environment can be changed in one direction, those changes are reversible and the metabolic syndrome can be overcome.
Steps you can take to reduce the risk (or severity) of metabolic syndrome include:
Grape Seed Extract Fights Metabolic Syndrome
Increase Activity Level
Improve Your Health Through Better Eating Habits
Lose Some Weight And Get Healthier
Give Your Body What It Needs To Start Living Well
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