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Metabolic syndrome is not in itself a disease or condition. Just from the word syndrome, we should be able to understand it as a set of symptoms that occur together. We can loosely define the syndrome as mentioned above as conditions that occur together to increase the risk of diseases like coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
These conditions, in medical terms, are known as risk factors. They increase the risk, the chances of developing the diseases mentioned above. Below we look at each of the risk factors, the symptoms, causes, complications related to the syndrome, diagnosis, as well as treatment and prevention.
The risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome
A) A large waistline
This is called having an apple shape. You have excess fat in your abdominal area, a big risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). When you have CHD, plaque, a substance that looks like wax slowly builds up inside the arteries in the heart. The arteries become hard and narrow. Less blood flows to the heart, leading to heart damage, chest pain, a heart attack, or even death.
B) Low levels of good cholesterol
Not all cholesterol is bad. Good cholesterol actually helps to remove the bad cholesterol from your arteries. When this good type is very low, it means that you have high levels of the bad type. This increases your risk for CHD.
C) High levels of sugar in the blood
If your sugar levels in the blood are high, it could be a risk factor for diabetes. If you are on medication to treat high sugar levels, you could also be more susceptible to diabetes.
D) High level of triglycerides
This is a type of fat in the blood. When its levels are high, you could suffer from CHD, diabetes or stroke. Medication treating this fat could also trigger the previously mentioned diseases.
E) High blood pressure
If the pressure in your blood rises and remains high for a long period, it could result in plaque buildup. Medication to treat high blood pressure could have the same effect.
Note that for you to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you need to have a minimum of 3 risk factors. These factors tend to occur together, though from time to time, one could have just one.
Symptoms of metabolic syndrome
Interestingly, despite knowing the risk factors, it is not easy to identify this syndrome. Most of the diseases it causes have no symptoms. A visible symptom could be excess fat on your waistline. Remember, this is not a conclusive way to identify the syndrome since you need to have at least 3 factors for you to be diagnosed as having the syndrome.
Symptoms like fatigue, blurred vision, increased thirst and urination could point to high blood sugar. If your doctor confirms that you have high blood sugar, ask them whether you have any other risk factors that are related to the syndrome.
High blood pressure has no symptoms, usually. Some people may experience dizziness, nosebleeds, and dull headaches.
Metabolic Syndrome is a lifestyle disease
To a large extent, the syndrome is a lifestyle disease. This means that it is linked with being overweight, obese and lack of exercise. Insulin resistance could also cause the syndrome. When you have insulin resistance, your cells are not able to properly absorb glucose. You, therefore, have extremely high levels of glucose in the blood. Your body produces more insulin which helps glucose to be absorbed by the body cells, but it does not alleviate the situation.
Other causes of Metabolic Syndrome
The older you are, the more susceptible you are to the syndrome
In the U.S. there are more cases of the syndrome among Mexican-Americans when compared to other ethnicities. The risk of the syndrome is lower among white and black populations.
– Diseases and disorders
Diseases and disorders like diabetes are not only results of the syndrome, but can also cause it. The common diabetes types that cause the syndrome are gestational (during pregnancy) or type 2 caused by genetics. Other diseases include cardiovascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Genetics can cause type 2 diabetes, or increase your risk for insulin resistance, which in turn causes the syndrome. If your sibling or parent has diabetes, you could also develop the syndrome.
Women are more susceptible when compared to men.
More statistics on susceptibility85% of people with type 2 diabetes also have the syndrome. If you have both diabetes type 2 and metabolic syndrome, you have a 15% higher risk of CHD.
Studies have shown that there are other complications that arise from metabolic syndrome: inflammation throughout the body and excess clotting of the blood. Research has yet to establish whether these complications worsen the syndrome or make it worse.
There are other conditions that could play a role in the syndrome, and there is ongoing research. These include:
– Cysts on the ovaries
– Fatty liver
– Breathing difficulties when you are asleep
A physical exam and blood tests will reveal whether you have the syndrome. Remember, you must have at least 3 risk factors. One of the blood tests you can go for is a lipoprotein panel. It shows your cholesterol and fat levels in the blood.
Treatment and prevention
Treatment and prevention involve lifestyle changes. You need to constantly put effort and work together with your healthcare provider if you are to see any significant results. Lifestyle changes include: working towards a healthy weight, physical activity, quitting smoking, and eating heart-healthy foods. Lifestyle changes may be coupled with medications to control the risk factors.
The main focus of treatment is to reduce the risk of CHD. First, treatment focuses on lowering bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, if present. After CHD is managed, type 2 diabetes must be kept at bay, if you do not have it already.
Routine doctor visits are necessary to keep track of the risk factors. Note that metabolic syndrome is lifelong. There is no cure. You can only manage it via lifestyle changes.
All in All
Metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur together and may be a precursor to other diseases like CHD, diabetes, and stroke. We have looked at the risk factors that could lead to the diseases as mentioned earlier, and what causes them. Since the syndrome is a lifelong disease, you need to be aware of how to manage it via lifestyle changes. Working with your doctor also helps. Be informed and live a correct lifestyle.