Metabolic syndrome is a very serious problem, but exactly what is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome, also known as metabolic syndrome X, syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome, is a group of health problems that occur together, greatly increasing the risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
You have metabolic syndrome when you have three or more of the following health problems: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high body fat around the waist.
Having one component of metabolic syndrome means you're more likely to have others, and the more components you have the greater the risks are to your health.
The exact cause of metabolic syndrome is not known, but it's linked to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells of the body, where it's used for energy. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells do not respond properly to insulin, so higher levels of insulin are needed in order for insulin to have its effects. This causes higher than normal levels of insulin to build up in the bloodsteam, and this can lead to a variety of health problems.
As is true with many health conditions, both genetics and lifestyle play important roles in the development of metabolic syndrome.
Genetic factors influence each individual component of the syndrome, as well as the syndrome itself. A family history of early heart disease, type 2 diabetes or hypertension greatly increases the chance that someone will develop metabolic syndrome.
Lifestyle issues such as weight gain, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking also contribute significantly to the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Obesity is likely the greatest risk factor for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is present in about 5% of people with normal body weight, 22% of those who are overweight, and 60% of those who are obese.
Making healthy lifestyle changes is the best way to prevent or treat metabolic syndrome. These changes include weight loss, increased physical activity, a healthy diet, reduced alcohol consumption and smoking cessation.
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