You’ve heard of diabetes. You know about heart disease. You’re even aware of stroke, but what you might not know about is a cluster of risk factors that raises your risk of developing one or all three of these serious conditions.
We’re talking about metabolic syndrome, which affects 23% of Americans, for an important reason.
By recognizing your risk factors and getting screened (as recommended by your primary care doctor), you can be on a path to reverse it with whole-health experts guiding your every step.
Along your journey, you’ll also decrease your risk for some of the most serious and life-threatening conditions affecting the U.S. population. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that metabolic syndrome will become the main risk factor for cardiovascular (heart) disease, ahead of cigarette smoking.
Another key benefit? You’ll feel whole.
To start, take charge by learning more about metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic Syndrome Explained
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the cluster of metabolic factors involved includes:
- Abdominal obesity. This means having a waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men.
- High blood pressure. Having a consistent blood pressure of 130/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) or higher is strongly tied to obesity and stroke. People with insulin resistance also commonly have high blood pressure.
- Impaired fasting blood glucose. This means a level equal to or greater than 100 mg/dL.
- High triglyceride levels. A type of fat in the blood, high triglyceride levels are considered to be more than 150 mg/dL.
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol. Less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women is considered low.
Your doctor will rely on evidence-based guidelines that outline specific criteria to diagnose metabolic syndrome. In addition to those mentioned above, a few others may include:
- Increased blood clotting
- Insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes, impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance)
The Link Between Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance
Most people who have metabolic syndrome have insulin resistance.
The body makes insulin to move glucose (sugar) into cells for energy. Obesity makes it more difficult for cells in the body to respond to insulin. If the body can’t make enough insulin to override the resistance, the body’s blood sugar level increases, which causes type 2 diabetes.
This dysfunctional metabolic process often occurs over years to decades. So, metabolic syndrome may be an indication of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in the future. If metabolic syndrome is diagnosed and treated, it’s possible to prevent diabetes and other chronic illnesses down the road.
Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome
Knowing your risk factors is the first step in turning your whole health toward a more positive direction. This includes changing lifestyle behaviors (we know that’s not easy) and partnering with your health care provider to personalize a treatment plan that’s safe and realistic for you.
First, your health care provider will assess your risk factors for metabolic syndrome, which include:
- Age. You are more likely to have metabolic syndrome the older you are.
- Ethnicity. African Americans and Mexican Americans are more likely to get metabolic syndrome. African-American women are about 60% more likely than African-American men to have the syndrome.
- Body mass index (BMI) greater than 25
- Personal or family history of diabetes. Women who have had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or people who have a family member with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk for metabolic syndrome.
- History of heavy alcohol drinking
- Being post-menopausal
- High-fat diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome might not have any symptoms, but its risk factors should sound an alarm. If you have a history of high blood pressure, high triglycerides and being overweight or obese, discuss metabolic syndrome screening with your health care provider.
Your health care provider may order some lab work of other diagnostic tests to assess your criteria for a metabolic syndrome diagnosis. If you do have metabolic syndrome, consider it an opportunity to change your life and prevent other serious diseases down the road.
Take Action Against Metabolic Syndrome
Prioritizing your whole health can help you avoid metabolic syndrome altogether. If you feel like you might be at risk, however, lean on our experts for screenings and guidance.
Schedule your screening today and take the next step toward long-term whole health