The saying goes, ‘It’s not a matter of if you’re going to have a heart attack or stroke, but a matter of when.” This saying applies to a condition called metabolic syndrome which is more common than many realize. In fact, many people may have this condition without knowing they are essentially a ticking time bomb for serious health issues.
What is metabolic syndrome and how common is it?
Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that greatly increases a person’s chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health problem. Even though the precise cause of metabolic syndrome is unknown, over the years, this condition has steadily risen to where today about 34 percent of Americans are estimated to have it and about 85% of those with type 2 diabetes are affected.
Who is at risk for metabolic syndrome
Anyone can be at risk for metabolic syndrome but there is a higher prevalence of it in non-Hispanic white men than Mexican-American and non-Hispanic black men. However, in women it is more common in Mexican-American than non-Hispanic black or non-Hispanic white women.
The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age and about 40% of people over 60 have it.
Worldwide, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome is growing.
5 risk factors of metabolic syndrome
Identifying metabolic syndrome depends upon the presence of three or more risk factors:
- Central obesity. Your waist circumference will tell you this:
- More than 40 inches for men
- More than 35 inches for women
- Fasting blood triglycerides of150 mg/dl or more or you are taking medicine for high triglyderides
- Low HDL cholesterol levels or taking medicine for low HDL cholesterol:
- Men – Less than 40 mg/dl
- Women – Less than 50 mg/dl
- Elevated blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or taking medicine for high blood pressure.
- Fasting glucose (blood sugar) of 100 mg/dl or more or taking medicine for high blood glucose
How to treat metabolic syndrome
The main goal is to treat the underlying cause of the syndrome while also preventing the development of other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Metabolic syndrome can be treated with lifestyle modification which is the preferred treatment rather than resorting to medications. Some of the lifestyle changes that will need to occur are:
- Weight reduction
- Stop smoking
- Exercise – choose a sustainable exercise program such as 30 minutes five days a week.
- Consume a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
When a person loses weight, stops smoking, includes exercise and eats a healthy diet, there will be substantial beneficial effects on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity and thus result in lowering your chance of metabolic syndrome.