What is “Metabolic Syndrome”?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of disorders and symptoms that when present increases ones risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. These disorders include type 2 diabetes (where fasting blood sugar is greater than or equal to 110mg/dl), hypertension (where blood pressure is greater than or equal to 130/85mmHg), hypertriglyceridemia (where triglycerides are greater than or equal to 150mg/dl), low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (where the HDL’s are equal to or lower than 40mg/dl for men and equal to or lower than 50mg/dl in women), and abdominal obesity (where waist circumference is greater than 40 inches in men and greater than 35 inches in women). The following questions and answers will further explain this disorder.

How are high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high triglycerides and low high- density lipoproteins (HDL’s or “good cholesterol”) with abdominal obesity related? It starts with insulin resistance, which is a reduced sensitivity of the body’s tissues, primarily the liver and muscles to the action of insulin. Insulin, a hormone needed to drive the glucose into the cell, so it can be utilized for energy, when there is resistance, blood sugar levels rise. The body releases more insulin in response to elevated blood sugar levels creating something called hyperinsuliemia. Excess insulin, causes chemical changes in the liver, which leads to increased triglycerides (a type of fat), lowering of the good cholesterol (HDL), and salt retention. This in turn causes blood pressure to elevate. One can see this is a chain reaction that starts with insulin becoming resistant to the cells.

These risk factors are treated as a constellation of disorders because they are interrelated (i.e., at the core of obesity is insulin resistance; insulin resistance leads to elevated blood glucose levels, which leads to diabetes type 2, which contributes to heart disease; heart disease is characterized by elevated fats and in the presence of low HDL contributes to atherosclerosis leading to heart attack.

The cornerstone to treating this group of disorders is weight loss, diet modification, and regular, moderate-intensity exercise. Further eliminating high saturated fat, high cholesterol, and high-sugared foods from your diet and replacing these foods with moderate protein, low carbohydrate and low fat foods will help you attain your ideal weight. Making the above life style modifications will lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, and raise HDL levels thereby lowering your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. Another important fact to remember is that unless you have a genetic disposition to these disorders, they are all completely preventable with diet, exercise, and weight control.

Metabolic Syndrome is also referred to as “Syndrome X”.