What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of health conditions that increase the risk of heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes. It is known by several other names such as syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, and obesity syndrome. To be diagnosed as a case of metabolic syndrome, you need to have at least three of the following metabolic risk factors:
- Elevated waist circumference: A large waistline, also known as abdominal obesity, may increase the risk of heart diseases. People with apple-shaped bodies have most of the fat deposited in the stomach area, which is more dangerous for causing health conditions such as heart diseases and stroke. A waistline of more than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men is considered a large waistline.
- Increased triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat present in the blood. Elevated triglycerides increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Levels more than 150 mg/dL are dangerous.
- Reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: HDL or good cholesterol has protective effects in the body. It removes cholesterol from the arteries and maintains cardiovascular health. HDL less than 40 mg/dL is a warning sign.
- High blood pressure: People who have high blood pressure or are on medications for the treatment of high blood pressure are at risk of various complications. Persistently increased blood pressure of more than 130/85 mm hg can damage the blood vessels and heart and can lead to the buildup of a waxy substance called plaque in the blood vessels.
- High fasting blood sugar or on medications to treat increased blood sugar: Fasting blood sugar refers to the blood sugar values taken after at least eight hours of fasting (having no solids or fluids except water). Mildly raised blood sugar increases the risk of diabetes in the future. Fasting sugars more than 100 mg/dL must be cautiously monitored.
Can metabolic syndrome be reversed?
Healthy lifestyle changes can prevent and even reverse metabolic syndrome. Along with the lifestyle changes, you need to regularly visit your healthcare provider for checkups and investigations that include blood pressure, blood sugar levels, HbA1c, lipoprotein panel, and other tests as recommended by your doctor. If your doctor thinks that lifestyle changes are not enough for managing the syndrome, they may prescribe medications for better management of conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Some of the lifestyle changes that can help prevent or even reverse metabolic syndrome include:
What causes metabolic syndrome?
The exact cause of metabolic syndrome is not known. This syndrome, however, is associated with several factors which include:
- Genetics: People with metabolic syndrome generally have a family history of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Several studies have argued that there might be some genes that make a person vulnerable to get metabolic syndrome.
- Insulin resistance: This refers to the condition in which the body becomes less sensitive or resistant to the effect of the hormone called insulin. Certain signs of insulin syndrome include skin tags and acanthosis nigricans (presence of dark lines along the skin creases such as the back of the neck.
- Obesity: Being obese or overweight is one of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet rich in processed foods such as pastries, fried foods, and cookies and low in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains makes a person vulnerable to get metabolic syndrome.
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