Metabolic Syndrome

There are 5 ‘conditions’ for classifying metabolic syndrome – a large waistline is one of them.

The metabolic syndrome is a known risk factor for increasing your risk of heart disease.

My husband recently went to the doctor and was told he had something called the metabolic syndrome. I have never heard of this before. Is it serious? Can he die from it?

The word metabolic means the biochemical processes in your body. Metabolic syndrome is a term for a group of conditions that usually occur together, increasing your risk of getting heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

It is a risk ratio that doctors can calculate to tell how likely you are to get serious diseases like cardiac arrest (heart attack).

To this day, not all doctors agree that metabolic syndrome is a separate disease or even deserves its own classification. It used to be called Syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome by some people.

What are the conditions for me to be diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome then?

There are 5 conditions that are included in the metabolic risk factors for heart disease. These five conditions usually occur together. If you have at least 3 out of these 5, then you can be diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome.

1. A large waistline – if you have excess fat in your abdominal area, which means you have an ‘apple shape’. This is a greater risk factor than having fat in your buttocks or thighs.

2. A high triglyceride level in your blood. (Or if you are already on anti-trigylceride medication.)

3. A low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol level in your blood. Remember, HDL is the good cholesterol and LDL is the bad cholesterol.

4. High blood pressure. (Or if you are already on medication to treat high blood pressure.)

5. Higher than normal fasting blood sugar. If your blood sugar is mildly elevated, it could be an early warning sign of diabetes. This actually shows that you have resistance to insulin, the hormone that stores sugar and fat in your body.

The more risk factors out of these that you have, the more likely you are of developing heart disease, stroke or diabetes. A person with metabolic syndrome is twice more likely to develop heart disease than a person who doesn’t and 5 times more likely to develop diabetes.

Most people usually have two or three components.

Why are some people more likely to get metabolic syndrome?

You are more likely to get metabolic syndrome if you are overweight or obese and do not exercise often. Researchers have shown that the underlying process is actually insulin resistance.

Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas. Its function is to regulate blood sugar in your body. When you eat food, it goes into your digestive system and intestines. It gets processed and glucose, as it is called when it is broken down into small molecules, is absorbed into your blood-stream. Your blood carries the glucose to your tissues for fuel with the help of insulin.

Unfortunately for people with insulin resistance, their cells don’t respond as readily to insulin as normal people do, so glucose doesn’t easily enter their cells, thus leaving more glucose in their bloodstream.

This will in turn stimulate more insulin to be released into the bloodstream, and increased insulin will in turn also increase your trygylyceride level. It will also adversely affect your kidneys, leading to an elevation in blood pressure.

The elevated blood sugar in people with metabolic syndrome is not high enough to qualify as diabetes.

What causes insulin resistance?

No one knows for sure to this day but scientists postulate that it is due to a combination of factors that include genetic and environmental ones.

Insulin resistance apparently runs in some families, passed down from parents to children.

If I have metabolic syndrome, what can I do?

If you are overweight, you should definitely concentrate on losing weight and getting more exercise. About 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day is recommended, such as brisk walking.

Losing as little as 5 to 10% of your body weight can reduce insulin levels and decrease your risk of getting diabetes.

You also have to modify your diet, eating more vegetables, fish and whole grains. Limit foods containing unhealthy fats and red meat. And if you are smoking, you should stop.

If all this doesn’t work, then your doctor might have to prescribe you medication. If you have high blood pressure, then you might need antihypertensive medication. The same goes for high cholesterol and triglycerides. There are also insulin sensitisers to help your body use insulin more effectively.

Some people also go on low dose aspirin to help prevent heart attack and stroke.

More info on METABOLIC SYNDROME here.

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