Metabolic syndrome is a serious condition that impacts a staggering number of people. According to the American Heart Association, 47 million Americans suffer from metabolic syndrome symptoms, with most having no idea they are affected. To better understand your risk, learn the signs and dangers of this widespread condition.
What Is it?
A cluster of health issues, metabolic syndrome is a term used to describe the presence of abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, excess body fat around the waist, high blood sugar and increased blood pressure. Having just one of these problems can increase your chances of early death. Altogether, however, these conditions can drastically increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?
Poor dietary habits and a lack of exercise increase a person’s risk of developing metabolic syndrome. At the same time, there are also other factors which increase a person’s risk. These include:
- Insulin resistance
- Family history
- High triglyceride levels
- Reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- A blood pressure reading of at least 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)
- A fasting blood sugar reading of at least 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L)
- A waistline that measures at least 102 centimeters for men and 89 centimeters for women
Diabetes and other disease can also increase a person’s risk of metabolic syndrome. For instance, if you have ever had polycystic ovary syndrome, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or cardiovascular disease, you are at a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Why it’s So Dangerous
Because most of the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome have no symptoms, people may suffer with them for years without proper treatment. This can lead to irreversible damage resulting in diabetes and plaque build-up in the arteries.
When to See a Doctor
While many symptoms of metabolic syndrome go unnoticed, a large waist circumference can be a strong visible sign. Yearly physicals can also uncover potential symptoms and give you a head-start on treatment, which can reverse or slow damage.
According to guidelines used by the National Institutes of Health, three or more of the following traits usually lead to a metabolic syndrome diagnosis:
If you receive a positive diagnosis, your doctor will recommend aggressive lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. If this strategy doesn’t help, he or she may also suggest medications to help control blood glucose, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.