Metabolic syndrome is a blanket term for a group of disorders that can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, and stroke. It is also known as Syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome and includes any three of the following conditions; abdominal obesity, increased levels of blood sugar, high blood pressure, increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood.
It is not necessary to have all of these conditions simultaneously, nor having any one of them is metabolic syndrome. However, having three or more of the conditions labels you as having a metabolic syndrome and makes you eligible for proper care related to it to be safe from a more serious illness like a heart attack or a stroke.
Metabolic syndrome is quite common and affects around 34% of people in the USA. You can manage the syndrome and prevent yourself from the grave sequela with proper care and treatment.
The causative factors and the pathways involved in developing metabolic syndrome are highly complex and still under research. The diet we eat that includes carbohydrates, fats, and proteins is metabolized and broken down in our bodies to provide energy. The imbalance between food provision and energy expenditure leads to metabolic derangement that can result in the generation of substances leading to inflammation and dysfunction of the body's metabolic factory, proceeding to the development of insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. Some of the factors considered responsible for causing metabolic syndrome are;
1. Obesity and Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity in the setting of overeating can lead to the excess accumulation of fats around the waist resulting in insulin resistance, increased triglycerides, and other effects of metabolic syndrome.
2. Stress: Physical and mental stress can disrupt the hormonal balance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and result in the production of increased levels of the stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol causes more insulin release and glucose production culminating in the accumulation of adipose tissue that results in obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension.
3. Disrupted sleep: Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep on the background of other risk factors can also cause disruptions of hormonal balance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and result in the production of increased levels of cortisol, causing similar effects to that of stress.
4. Obstructive sleep apnea: New studies have shown the association of this disorder with metabolic syndrome. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition caused by improper muscle toning of the throat, causing blockage of airway and cessation of breathing resulting in disrupted sleep. The disorder itself causes hypertension, mood disorders, headaches, difficulty concentration, and other problems.
The prevalence of Metabolic syndrome is increasing day by day owing to the surge in the frequency of obesity, sedentary lifestyle, stress, etc. Almost two-thirds of the US population was obese or overweight in 2008, and more than one-fourth met the diagnostic criteria of metabolic syndrome. The prevalence has increased from 25.3% in 1994 to 34.2% in 2007. In the US, it is more prevalent in African Americans and minorities. The risk increases with increasing age, affecting almost 40% of people older than 60 years.
Having the following risk factors can put you at higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome;
If you have metabolic syndrome, you may show the following signs and symptoms;
Metabolic syndrome is a multifactorial disease. To make the diagnosis, your health practitioner will ask you questions regarding the symptoms of all the components of metabolic syndrome. They will examine you for the signs discussed above, such as measuring your waist circumference, blood pressure, hirsutism, xanthelasma, acanthosis nigricans, etc. They may also advise you to undergo some blood tests to check the levels of triglycerides, LDL, and HDL- cholesterol, sugar levels. Your doctor will decide whether or not you meet the diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome, based on your lab results. According to the guidelines of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the American Heart Association (AHA), having any three of the following five disorders makes the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome.
Following disorders can be related to or present like metabolic syndrome and must be looked deeper into to make an efficient diagnosis and proper management.
Despite the complex nature of the disorder, the management is somewhat simple and doable.
Once the diagnosis is made, you must stay vigilant to manage your conditions. People who make lifestyle changes, take their medicines properly and are regular in their follow-ups have good control of the symptoms and the risk factors.
Untreated metabolic syndrome can lead to several complications like heart attack, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, stroke, diabetes type 2, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, some cancers, pre-eclampsia, etc.
Diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease may co-exist and are leading causes of increased mortality among older adults.
These are the prime components of metabolic syndrome management.
Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on May 25, 2023.
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