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Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome Overview

The term metabolic syndrome is well recognized in the medical literature and in the lay press as well. Metabolic syndrome (also referred to as syndrome X or dysmetabolic syndrome) refers to an association between certain metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease. While the criteria for the diagnosis vary, the concept of a clustering of risks factors that lead to cardiovascular disease is well accepted.

The main characteristics of metabolic syndrome include insulin resistance, hypertension (high blood pressure), abnormalities in cholesterol levels, and an increased risk for blood clotting. Most people with metabolic syndrome are overweight or obese.

Insulin resistance (IR) is a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Because of the central role that insulin resistance plays in metabolic syndrome, a separate article is devoted to insulin resistance.

The most widely accepted definition of metabolic syndrome is based on the guidelines from the 2001 National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel (ATP III).

Any three of the following traits in the same individual meet the criteria for the metabolic syndrome:

  1. Abdominal obesity: a waist circumference over 102 cm (40 in) in men and over 88 cm (35 inches) in women.
  2. Serum triglycerides 150 mg/dl or above.
  3. HDL cholesterol 40mg/dl or lower in men and 50mg/dl or lower in women.
  4. Blood pressure of 130/85 or more.
  5. Fasting blood glucose of 110 mg/dl or above. (Some groups say 100mg/dl)

Metabolic Syndrome Causes

Metabolic syndrome is unfortunately common.

Weight is a significant influence on the development of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is present in a small percentage of people with normal body weight, while it is present in a significant percentage of individuals who are overweight, and a majority of individuals considered obese. Adults who continue to gain five or more pounds per year raise their risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

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.

Obesity is likely the greatest risk factor for metabolic syndrome; however other risk factors of concern include:

  • women who are post-menopausal
  • smoking
  • eating an excessively high carbohydrate diet
  • lack of activity (even without weight change)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/10/2014

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