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Metabolic Syndrome

Definition


Disease: Metabolic Syndrome Metabolic Syndrome
Category: Endocrine and metabolic diseases
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Disease Definition:

Abnormal cholesterol levels, excess body fat around the waist, increased blood pressure or elevated insulin levels that occur together, increasing one's risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease, is the cluster of conditions called metabolic syndrome.

Having just one of these conditions contributes to one's risk of a serious disease, though it isn't diagnosed as metabolic syndrome. The risk is even greater if more than one of these conditions occur in combination.

Aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems in case a person has metabolic syndrome or any of the components of metabolic syndrome.

Work Group:


Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

A person has metabolic syndrome in case he/she has three or more disorders at the same time that are related to metabolism, such as:

 

  • Resistance to insulin, a hormone that helps regulate the amount of sugar in the body
  • A systolic (top number) blood pressure measurement higher than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or a diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure measurement higher than 80 mm Hg
  • Obesity, particularly around the waist (having an “apple shape”)
  • An elevated level of the blood fat called triglycerides and a low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol).  


A person is more likely to have other components of metabolic syndrome when having one of these components. Additionally, the more components one has, the greater the risks to his/her health.

A person should ask whether testing for other components of the syndrome is needed and what to do to avoid serious diseases because he/she may have other components of metabolic syndrome and not know it when having at least one component, such as an apple-shaped body, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. So checking with the doctor is important.

Causes:

Metabolic syndrome is linked to the body's metabolism, possibly to a condition called insulin resistance. The hormone made by the pancreas that helps control the amount of sugar in the bloodstream is insulin.

The foods a person eats are normally broken down into sugar (glucose) by the digestive system. The cells use the glucose as fuel when the blood carries it to the body's tissues. With the help of insulin, glucose enters the cells. Cells don't respond normally to insulin, and glucose can't enter the cells as easily in people with insulin resistance. To help glucose get into the cells, the body reacts by churning out more and more insulin, which results in higher than normal levels of insulin in the blood. When the body is unable to make enough insulin to control the blood glucose to the normal range, it can eventually lead to diabetes.

An elevated glucose level can still be harmful even if the levels aren't high enough to be considered diabetes. "Prediabetes" is what some doctors call this condition. The triglyceride level and other blood fat levels may rise because of increased insulin. Increased insulin interferes with how the kidneys work, leading to higher blood pressure. A person will be at risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other conditions because of these combined effects of insulin resistance.

COMBINATION OF FACTORS:
What causes insulin resistance is still being learned. A variety of environmental and genetic factors are probably involved in it. Inheriting the tendency from their parents, some people may be genetically prone to insulin resistance. However, being inactive and overweight are major contributors.

DISAGREEMENT AMONG EXPERTS:
Not all experts have the same idea about whether metabolic syndrome exists as a distinct medical condition and the definition of this condition. This cluster of risk factors was called many names, including syndrome X and insulin resistance syndrome, and it has been talked about for years.

The chances of having metabolic syndrome may increase due to several factors:

Race:
The risk of metabolic syndrome is greater in Hispanics and Asians than it is in other races.

History of diabetes:
If one has a family history of diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or type 2 diabetes, he/she is more likely to have metabolic syndrome.

 Obesity:
The risk of metabolic syndrome is increased by a body mass index (BMI) — a measure of the percentage of body fat based on height and weight — that is greater than 25; and it increases by abdominal obesity — having an apple shape rather than a pear shape.

Age:
Affecting less than 10% of people in their 20s and 40% of people in their 60s, the risk of metabolic syndrome increases with age. However, warning signs of metabolic syndrome may also appear in childhood.

Other diseases:
The risk of metabolic syndrome may be also increased by a diagnosis of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or polycystic ovary syndrome, which is a similar type of metabolic problem that affects a woman's hormones and reproductive system.

Complications

Complications:

The risk of developing the following conditions can be increased when having metabolic syndrome:

Diabetes:
The glucose levels will continue to increase if one doesn’t make lifestyle changes to control his/her insulin resistance. As a result of metabolic syndrome, one may develop diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease:
The buildup of plaques in the arteries can be contributed to by high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The arteries can narrow and harden due to the presence of these plaques, which can lead to a stroke or a heart attack.

Treatments:

Taking on all of the risk factors of metabolic syndrome might seem overwhelming, as tackling only one of them is tough enough. However, all of the metabolic syndrome components can be improved by aggressive lifestyle changes and in some cases, medication. Blood sugar and cholesterol levels may be improved and blood pressure may be reduced by quitting smoking, getting more physical activity and losing weight. So to reduce the risk, these changes are vital.

Losing weight:
The risk of diabetes may be decreased and blood pressure and insulin levels may be reduced by losing as little as 5 to 10% of the body weight.

Stop Smoking:
If one needs help kicking the cigarette habit, he/she could talk to a doctor because the health consequences of metabolic syndrome may get worse and insulin resistance may increase by smoking cigarettes.

Exercising:
Getting 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day is recommended, such as brisk walking.

Eating Healthy:
Like many healthy-eating plans, The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean Diet emphasize vegetables, whole grains, fruits and fish, and limit unhealthy fats. For people who have components of metabolic syndrome, both of these dietary approaches have been found to offer important health benefits in addition to weight loss. Before starting a new eating plan, the patient should ask his/her doctor for guidance.

To ensure that lifestyle modifications are working, the patient should talk to the doctor to monitor his/her weight and cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and blood glucose. To help the patient lose weight, control cholesterol or lower blood pressure, medications may be prescribed if the patient is unable to reach his/her goals with lifestyle changes. The risk of heart attack and stroke may be reduced by taking a daily acetylsalicylic acid  after discussing it with the doctor.

Prognosis:

Not Available

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