What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a relatively new-found condition, discovered less than twenty years ago. Most people have heard of it by now, but what exactly is it?

Also formerly known as syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome, it is a combination of three or more risk factors including insulin resistance, hypertension, cholesterol abnormalities, and hormonal imbalances, which can lead to cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Individuals who suffer from metabolic syndrome are often overweight or obese and the risks for developing the condition increase with age.

Metabolic syndrome is closely linked to insulin resistance, meaning your body is unable to use insulin properly to remove glucose from your blood. People who experience insulin resistance tend to on to develop type 2 diabetes.

Both genetics and environment play significant roles in the development of metabolic syndrome. A family history of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and early heart disease greatly increases the risk that an individual will develop metabolic syndrome. It’s also most common among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. Environmental issues such as low activity level and progressive weight gain especially in the mid-section, also contribute significantly to risk.

This health condition is fairly common, affecting close to one in six adults in the United States. The good news is you can treat and prevent it by making smart, healthy changes in diet and exercise habits. If you’ve already been diagnosed, take action now by making appropriate lifestyle changes to prevent it from turning into type 2 diabetes or other serious health illnesses in the future.

Some steps you can take to control or prevent type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome are:

  1. Stay active. If you’re overweight or obese, losing some of your body weight can drastically decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Just 30 minutes of physical activity most days a week can help maintain your weight (work out for 60 minutes if you’re trying to lose weight), lower your blood pressure, and help your body use insulin more effectively; thereby reducing your blood glucose levels and risk of diabetes. Make this fun and find activities you enjoy! Go for a walk on your lunch break, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk to the grocery store.
  2. Eat a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low fat dairy. Limit saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt which could increase your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  3. Don’t smoke. Although cigarette smoking is not a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, it is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
  4. Limit alcohol consumption. Excess alcohol consumption can lead to key components of metabolic syndrome such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides.

Medical risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome develop over time so there are usually no immediate physical symptoms. So if you’re unsure if you’re at risk, contact your health care provider.

Take your time making these lifestyle changes, your hard work and determination will pay off! Contact your health care provider before making drastic changes in your diet or exercise routines to be safe.

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