|What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
Terminology: Metabolic Syndrome used to be referred to as Insulin Resistance Syndrome (IRS), Metabolic Syndrome X or simply Syndrome X. They all mean the same thing.
Metabolic Syndrome is the name for a group of problems which, when they occur together, raise a person's risk factors for type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke. It is becoming more and more common in the United States and particularly worrying is the rising incidence in obese children and teenagers. Scientists are not sure if there is one single cause for the Syndrome but all of the conditions which need to be present for a diagnosis are related to obesity. According to the American Heart Association, you have the syndrome if you have 3 or more of the following problems:
1. Raised blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher.
2. Extra fat around the waist (called visceral fat). A large waist circumference is considered 35 inches (89 cm) or more for a woman and 40 inches (102 cm) or more for a man.
3. Fasting blood sugar (glucose) level of 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or higher (see, what is a normal blood sugar count?).
4. Low HDL cholesterol (the 'good' cholesterol) levels. That is, under 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) for women and 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) for men.
5. Triglycerides levels of 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) or higher.
Is It the Same As Prediabetes?
No. While some people with prediabetes will also have Metabolic Syndrome, not all will. Prediabetes is a different condition and is diagnosed when blood sugar levels reach a certain elevated level. It is only when the person develops more than 3 of the above criteria (raised blood sugar is only 1), that they will also be diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome.
Are There Any Symptoms?
All people with the Syndrome will have excess fat around the waist.
If you have raised blood sugar you may also experience early signs of diabetes such as frequent urination, feeling extra thirsty or tired, and blurred vision.
What Are The Risk Factors?
Most Important Risk Factors
Central obesity: Fat around the waist, you will have an apple-shaped body.
Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance is where the body does not respond correctly to the insulin it makes. Insulin is the hormone made by the pancreas and the job of insulin is to instruct cells to take sugar from the blood. If the cells don't 'listen' (become resistant), the sugar remains in the blood and levels rise.
Other Risk Factors
Genes: Scientists have isolated some genes that appear to make people prone to obesity (such as the KLF14 gene).
Physical Inactivity: Lack of exercise is a risk factor for this and many other conditions.
Aging: The risk increases with age. Syndrome X affects less than 10 percent of people in their 20s but 40 percent of those aged over 60.
Hormones: Hormones changes in the body are linked to the Syndrome.
Race: Some ethnic groups are more prone, in particular American Asians and American Hispanics.
Inflammation And Blood Clotting: Some people with the Syndrome also have low levels of inflammation throughout the body or excess blood clotting. This can either cause the condition or make it worse.
Other Conditions: Women with a diagnosis of PCOS or heart disease have extra risks.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Metabolic Syndrome is diagnosed with 3 of the above mentioned criteria exist. In order to test for most of those criteria, a range of diagnostic tests will be necessary including:
• Waist measurement.
• Blood pressure readings.
• Blood glucose test (see diabetes diagnosis for more details).
• Cholesterol tests.
Are there any home tests for diabetes?
How Is It Treated?
If you have been diagnosed with the Syndrome, try not to panic. Unlike a lot of other diseases, it is curable - the power is in your hands. However it will require commitment because aggressive lifestyle changes are necessary. You will need to lose weight, start exercising and improve your diet.
Weight Loss: Losing 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight will have huge benefits in lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes (diabetes prevention). It will also help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Exercise: Aim for a brisk walk, cycle or swim at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
Healthy Diet: Your doctor may advise you to follow either the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), Mediterranean Diet or Low GI Diet.
Smoking: If you smoke, quit. Smoking worsens insulin resistance and increases your risks for a lot other problems.
Drugs Therapies: You may be prescribed cholesterol drugs or blood pressure drugs if you have elevated levels until lifestyle factors kick-in. Many people who were initially prescribed these medications were able to reduce or stop taking them altogether by losing weight and exercising regularly. Also discuss aspirin therapy with your doctor, taking a daily aspirin may be recommended if you have high stroke or heart attack risk factors. If your doctor says you have clogged arteries, ask him about alternative therapies like chelation treatment. Also consider checking out chest pain clinics for specialist tests and advice.
What's The Prognosis?
If you don't tackle the underlying problems of Syndrome X (mainly obesity), you expose yourself to long-term risk of developing:
• CHD and atherosclerosis (clogged arteries).
• Type 2 diabetes.
• Heart attacks and stroke.
• Kidney and liver disease.
• Peripheral artery disease (PAD).
How Can I Prevent It?
Body Weight: Lose weight so that your body mass index (BMI) is less than 25.
Exercise: Start moving, even moderate activity for 30 minutes a day is enough.
Diet: Follow a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables and lean portions of fish, chicken and red meat. Snack on foods with a low glycemic index (you can find these on a Low GI diet plan). Check out books on diabetes for eating plans.
Fiber: Try to eat some fiber every day, such as fiber breakfast cereals, fruit, veggies, grains or beans. Fiber helps to lower insulin levels. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potato are particularly effective.
Fish Oil: Try to include some oily fish in your diet at least twice a week. Alternatively take a fish oil supplement (it might be marketed as an Omega-3 supplement).
Soy: Switch from dairy yogurts to soy yogurts. Soy can help balance blood sugar levels.
Smoking: Quit smoking if you smoke.