Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

Understanding Metabolic SyndromeBeing overweight or obese increases your risk for a series of health problems. One common obesity-related condition is metabolic syndrome.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a collection of medical conditions that commonly develop in association with obesity. There are five primary risk factors considered in metabolic syndrome. If at least three of them occur together, the condition is diagnosed.

The metabolic risk factors are:

  • Obesity: Specifically, having visceral fat (or a build-up of fat around the abdomen)
  • High triglyceride levels: Triglycerides are a form of blood fat that increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels: This includes having a high LDL or “bad” cholesterol and/or a low HDL or “good” cholesterol.
  • High blood sugar: Also called hyperglycemia. People with high blood glucose may have insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes.
  • Hypertension: This is more commonly referred to as high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease.

It is common for these health conditions to develop independently. When three of these conditions are diagnosed together, your risk for heart attack or stroke amplifies.  A diagnosis of just one of these conditions does not mean that you have metabolic syndrome, but it will increase your risk of developing a serious health problem like heart disease.

Health Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Each of the medical conditions that contribute to metabolic syndrome poses their own health risks. When the conditions develop concurrently, those health risks are amplified.

Metabolic syndrome increases your risk for health complications like:

  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke

Your risk of experiencing these concerns increases with each metabolic risk factor you develop. Other medical and environmental factors, like smoking, following a poor diet, a lack of physical activity or having conditions like sleep apnea may increase your risk for heart attack or stroke even more.

Having metabolic syndrome makes you twice as likely to experience a heart attack in comparison to a healthy individual, and makes you up to five times as likely to develop diabetes.

Treatment for Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is treated by independently addressing each of the underlying health concerns. Often, making a collection of lifestyle changes can improve your health and reduce the severity of the conditions that contribute to metabolic syndrome.

These lifestyle changes generally include:

  • Adopting a healthier diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Losing weight

Medications to control blood sugar, blood pressure and blood fats may also be prescribed to help manage metabolic syndrome. Weight loss medications are also often helpful in reducing the severity of the underlying health concerns.  In some cases, losing weight can actually reverse the onset of obesity-related disease and reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

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