Metabolic syndrome is a health condition that everyone's talking about.
Although the first formal definition of metabolic syndrome, or Syndrome X as it was called first, entered conventional medical textbooks not so long ago (1998). While I was in Naturopathic medical school we were learning about Syndrome X, because research in our community had started in the late 80’s. According to the American Heart Association, 47 million Americans have been diagnosed with it. That's almost a staggering one out of every six people.
They say this syndrome runs in families, and is more common among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. I’m not sold on the Asian population being at risk, but the other ethnic groups are predominately O blood types, which more commonly develop diabetes. The risks of developing metabolic syndrome increases as you age, IF you don’t eat a healthy diet, exercise, or manage your stress.
Indeed, metabolic syndrome seems to be a condition that many people have, but conventional medicine still doesn't know very much about. Metabolic syndrome can be viewed as a distinct condition, however, it's a group of risk factors / conditions, of which you need 3 out of the 5 to have the diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome.
According to the American Heart Association & the National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute, there are five risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome.
1) Large Waist Size:
For men: 40 inches or larger For women: 35 inches or larger
2) Cholesterol: High Triglycerides
150 mg/dL & higher, or being on a cholesterol medication
3) Cholesterol: Low Good Cholesterol (HDL)
For men: >40 mg/dL For women: > 50 mg/dL or being on a statin
4) Blood Sugar: High Fasting Glucose
100 mg/dL or higher
5) High Blood Pressure
Having blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher, or using BP medication
These risk factors double your risk of blood vessel and heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes. They can also increase your risk of diabetes by five times.
What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?
Experts aren't sure why metabolic syndrome develops. Well then why are they called experts?? Because this syndrome is multi-faceted, and not a single disease, there can be many different causes.
Possible factors are:
Insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use glucose as energy. For people with insulin resistance, the insulin is not very effective at keeping glucose levels down, so its levels continue to increase. This condition, along with extra abdominal fat, can lead to diabetes.
Obesity, or more specific, abdominal fat. Metabolic syndrome is becoming more prevalent due to rising obesity rates. Hmm, what’s causing that??
Hormonal imbalance. Hormones play a role. For instance, poly cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that affects fertility, causes hormonal imbalance, elevated insulin, and can evolve into metabolic syndrome.
Making big changes to your habits now, can prevent serious illness in the future.
The good news is that metabolic syndrome can be controlled, largely with lifestyle changes. The best news is that with early testing, lifestyle changes can be made which will improve all the risk factors, and possibly alleviate it all together, but certainly minimize any permanent damage.