Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic risk factors that come together in a single individual. These metabolic factors include insulin resistance, hypertension (high blood pressure), cholesterol abnormalities, and an increased risk for blood clotting. Affected individuals are most often overweight or obese.
Metabolic syndrome is considered to be a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes that arises due to insulin resistance and an abnormal function and pattern of body fat. Insulin resistance refers to the diminished ability of cells to respond to the action of insulin in promoting the transport of the sugar glucose, from blood into muscles and other tissues. Metabolic syndrome is also known as syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, or dysmetabolic syndrome.
Causes: As is true with many medical conditions, genetics and the environment both play important roles in the development of the metabolic syndrome. Genetic factors influence each individual component of the syndrome, and the syndrome itself. A family history that includes type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and early heart disease greatly increases the chance that an individual will develop the metabolic syndrome. Environmental issues such as low activity level, sedentary lifestyle, and progressive weight gain also contribute significantly to the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome.
Symptoms: Some people may have symptoms of high blood sugar if diabetes especially type 2 diabetes—is present. Symptoms of high blood sugar often include increased thirst; increased urination, especially at night; fatigue (tiredness); and blurred vision.
Treatment: Treating metabolic syndrome requires addressing several risk factors together.
1. Eat better: Adopt a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products and avoid processed food, which often contains partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and is high in salt and added sugar.
2. Get active. Incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderately vigorous physical activity into your weekly routine. Walking is the easiest place to start, but you may want to experiment to find something else you like to do that gets your heart rate up. If needed, break your exercise up into several short, 10-minute sessions throughout the day to reach your goal.
3. Lose weight: Reduce your risk for heart disease by successfully losing weight and keeping it off. Learn your recommended calorie intake, the amount of food calories you're consuming, and the energy calories you're burning off with different levels of physical activity. Balance healthy eating with a healthy level of exercise to reach your goals.
4. Take medications: If prescribed. When changes in lifestyle alone do not control the risk factors related to metabolic syndrome, your health practitioner may prescribe medications to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and other symptoms. Careful following your practitioner's instructions can help prevent many of the long term effects of metabolic syndrome. Every step counts and your hard work and attention to these areas will make a difference in your health.