Metabolic syndrome (also known as insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X) is the name of a group of risk factors leading to a myriad of dangerous health disorders associated with overweight or/ and obesity that can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, gout, kidney failure, morbid obesity, malignant hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and even certain cancers). (Source, Wiki)
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) the term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body’s normal functioning. (Source, NHLBI) Otherwise, metabolic syndrome is known as a “cluster” of dangerous health disorders that work and represent themselves together in a person.
The most important characteristics of the syndrome are elevated triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, low good cholesterol (HDL), elevated (LDL), abdominal obesity (apple shape) and high blood glucose(glucose intolerance). However, increasing evidence suggests the disease originates from both, insulin resistance and activation of vascular proinflammatory mechanisms related to elevated oxidative stress. Insulin resistance results in preferential metabolism of free fatty acids that leads to reduced glucose utilization.
What does metabolic syndrome mean?
Metabolic syndrome is a condition in which a group of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes may occur together in a person. According to a report by the National heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), metabolic syndrome is defined by the presence of the following health conditions:
1. Abdominal obesity (apple-shaped obesity).
2. Atherogenic dyslipidemia (High LDL and low HDL).
3. Hypertension (high blood pressure).
4. Insulin resistance and/or glucose intolerance.
5. Prothrombotic state (clot in a blood vessel).
6. Proinflammatory state (the state of chronic body inflammation). (Source, Wiki, Answers, WrongDiagnosis)
Although metabolic syndrome is not yet fully understood, abdominal fat (fat stored in the abdominal region) and insulin resistance seem to be the main contributing factors of developing the syndrome. The type of fat localized viscerally (belly fat) is now considered an active “toxic” tissue, acting as a typical endocrine organ, secreting hormones and other proinflammatory chemicals that can alter metabolism and contribute to insulin resistance. (Source, Harvard)
The appearance of insulin resistance, as well as the degree of subclinical inflammation are claimed as main predictors of the syndrome. There is some controversy about insulin levels as the main predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), although literature data indicate undisputable positive correlation. It is already known that significantly elevated blood glucose levels with increased insulin resistance predict not only the syndrome but many other metabolic disorders, as well. (Source, Wiki)
The infiltration of the adipose tissue by proinflammatory macrophages is shown as common feature of obesity. Adipose mass as measured by body weight, or body mass (BMI) and visceral obesity correlates quantitatively with the genetic expression of macrophages that produce inflammatory mediators and markers. An individual “waist-hip” ratio (WHR) may be the best indicator of one’s risk for this disease. Therefore, while metabolic syndrome may share some characteristic features with diabetes, despite it is not a true diabetic condition, per se. (Source, Wiki)
The National Health and Blood Institute (NHLBI) estimates that in the U.S. about 47 million (at around 25%) adults have metabolic syndrome. (Source, NHLBI) It can affect anyone but it is most frequently seen in those who are obese or significantly overweight (especially in the abdominal area) and those leading chronic sedentary lifestyle. People suffering of metabolic syndrome are three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke and one in four are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than someone without the syndrome.
Diagnosing the metabolic syndrome requires presence of at least three of the following risk factors:
1. Abdominal obesity (men- more than 40 inches; women- more than 35 inches).
2. Elevated fasting glucose (more than 110 mg/dL).
3. Elevated triglycerides (more than 150 mg/dL).
4. Reduced HDL cholesterol (men- less than 40 mg/dL; women- less than 50 mg/dL).
5. Elevated blood pressure (more than 130/85 mmHG).
Key indicators for diagnosing the syndrome are:
a) Waistline measurements exceeding 36 inches for women or 40 inches for men
b) Blood pressure above 130/85 mmHG
c) Triglycerides exceeding 150 mg/dL
d) Fasting blood glucose higher than 110 mg/dL
e) HDL (High density lipoprotein) levels below 50 mg/dL (women) or 40 mg/dL(men)
Beyond these considerations, three specific groups of patients are associated with metabolic syndrome:
a) Diabetics who cannot maintain normal glucose levels with diet and exercise.
b) Non-diabetics with pre-diabetic levels of blood glucose and high blood pressure
c) People with previous heart incident (heart attack) with high insulin levels but still glucose tolerant. (Source, Scientific Publishing Ltd)
Photo credit: Colin Rose (Flickr)
Video: Youtube.com (iHealth.com)
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