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Metabolic Syndrome

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Metabolic syndrome is the name used for a certain combination or cluster of health conditions. It has also been known as Syndrome X and the Insulin Resistance Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome, a disorder of the body’s metabolism, has no noticeable symptoms which can make diagnosis tricky. If you are dealing with any of the symptoms, you unquestionably need to be under a doctor’s supervision. Your physician will conduct a routine check up that includes blood analysis as well as taking your weight and blood pressure, and he or she will also need your complete medical history. The blood analysis will allow you and your doctor to monitor your blood glucose levels and the amounts of good cholesterol (HDL) versus bad cholesterol (LDL) in your bloodstream. 

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

If you are experiencing three or more of the following health problems you are considered to have metabolic syndrome:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Overweight (as defined by having a waist circumference greater than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women)
  • High levels of cholesterol, particularly the “bad” cholesterol LDL
  • High levels of triglycerides a type of fat found in the blood

Any one of the above conditions puts you at high risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

Causes of Metabolic Syndrome

Medical science does not know why this occurs, but Metabolic Syndrome is caused by insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas (an organ close to the stomach) to regulate the amount of sugar in the body. Insulin’s function is to help blood enter cells to be used for energy. Resistance happens when for some reason the body does not recognize the insulin it is producing which causes sugar to accumulate in the blood instead of being absorbed into the cells. The body’s response to these rising blood sugar levels is to have the pancreas produce more and more insulin to try and reduce these elevated blood sugar levels. High insulin levels result in diabetes

Risk Factors for Developing Metabolic Syndrome

The leading contributing factors to developing Metabolic Syndrome are age and a family history of Type 2 diabetes. Approximately 10% of North American’s in their 20’s are dealing with the cluster of health problems that determine Metabolic Syndrome. This number rises to about 40% of North Americans in their 60’s and it is believed that about 1 in 8 school aged children are also inflicted. Inactivity or being of either First Nations or South Asian ancestry will also increase the risks of developing Metabolic Syndrome. 

Treatment for Metabolic Syndrome

As for treatment, lifestyle modification has the greatest success in reducing the risk factors that lead to Metabolic Syndrome. Exercising for thirty minutes a day, five times a week reduces the risk by half. Diet adjustments alone can often address imbalances in the levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and fat. Diet improvements can also aid greatly, in most cases, with weight loss. If lifestyle changes do not bring about the desired results, other options your medical professional may suggest are: diet pills, insulin sensitizers which lower insulin levels (e.g.metformin, rosiglitazone), taking ASA (Aspirin) to reduce the risk of heart disease, or other medications specific to reducing the levels of bad cholesterol and raising the levels of good cholesterol. 

Once again, because there are no warning symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome, only a set of common characteristics, it is of primo importance to have regular routine check-ups that include blood analysis. Without medical assistance you will not be able to recognize or treat the conditions that lead to Metabolic Syndrome. Even the medical community itself does not agree if Metabolic Syndrome is in itself a distinct medical condition. Regardless, every single characteristic related to this syndrome leads to much more serious health problems and as such should be considered a warning sign that needs to be taken seriously.