What It Looks Like
58-year-old Steve was comfortable with what he refers to as his “middle-aged gut.” Already diagnosed with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol, Steve's doctor told him, "You have metabolic syndrome, but by making some basic and healthy lifestyle changes you can stabilize your health."
What It Is
Metabolic syndrome (also known as syndrome X) is characterized by a combination of four factors or conditions linked by insulin resistance. The four risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and excess weight (especially around the abdomen). Metabolism refers to the chemical processes in your body that help you change your food into energy, and help your body create new cells and new life. When your metabolic processes are out of whack, you increase your risk for several types of health problems. Metabolic syndrome affects 25% of Americans. If you have three of these four conditions, chances are you have metabolic syndrome. 85% of people with type 2 diabetes also have metabolic syndrome.
How It Happens
Insulin resistance plays a central role in metabolic syndrome. People with this condition often have high cholesterol and elevated triglycerides (a fat in the blood) which contribute to clogged arteries associated with coronary artery disease. With metabolic syndrome any one condition has the ability to trigger any of the others. For example, high blood pressure can lead to stroke. Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance may be the result of obesity, physical inactivity, or environmental factors, or you may have inherited a tendency to be insulin resistant. Metabolic syndrome can be aggravated by a bad diet. For example, excessive carbohydrate or fat consumption in people with this predisposition has been associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, sleep apnea, and fatty liver. On the same note, metabolic syndrome is greatly responsive to healthy lifestyle change.
While some people are affected by metabolic syndrome in their 20s, it is more common in people in their 60s. Risk factors for metabolic syndrome include a family history of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases such as cardiovascular disease or polycystic ovary syndrome. Hispanics and Asians may be at greater risk for developing this condition.
While many physicians accept the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, there is still some controversy as to whether or not it is a “syndrome.” Just as high blood pressure has few symptoms, metabolic syndrome has no symptoms per se; rather, the conditions themselves could be seen as symptoms. If you have three or more of these conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, are overweight and have an excess of abdominal fat), you may want to ask your doctor if metabolic syndrome is a condition you need to consider.
- Large waistline (apple shape)
- High triglycerides
- Insulin resistance
- Dizzy spells
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Vision changes
- Sleeping less
- High blood pressure