Metabolic syndrome is a collection of body measurements and laboratory test results that identify persons at high risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Each of these factors alone can increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. However, the risk is much higher when these factors are found in combination.
According to the Ottawa Health Research Institute (OHRI), metabolic syndrome is drastically increasing the number of heart attacks and strokes in Canada.
Metabolic syndrome is defined as having 3 or more of the following:
- A large waistline (abdominal obesity)
- A higher than normal blood pressure
- A higher than normal fasting blood sugar
- A higher than normal triglyceride level
- A lower than normal HDL cholesterol level
The exact cause of metabolic syndrome is not known. Most researchers believe it is caused by a combination of your genetic makeup and lifestyle choices-including the types of food you eat and your level of physical activity.
Usually, metabolic syndrome presents no immediate physical symptoms – medical problems associated with metabolic syndrome develop over time. Recent research shows that, over a ten-year period, men with undiagnosed or untreated metabolic syndrome have a 78% greater risk of strokes. For women with the syndrome, the risk is more than doubled.
Metabolic syndrome can be addressed with lifestyle modifications which include weight loss, regular exercise, stopping smoking, and reducing dietary fat intake. Losing just 10% of excess body weight lowers blood pressure and improves insulin resistance. Some persons may be able to treat high blood pressure and hyperglycemia by altering their lifestyle alone. In many individuals, lifestyle modification is not adequate, and medications must be used to decrease blood pressure and improve cholesterol.
To help prevent metabolic syndrome:
- Exercise regularly throughout your life.
- Encourage your children to have daily physical activity and make healthful food choices.
- Eat a healthful, balanced diet low in saturated fats and high in nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.
- Do not smoke.
- Recognize that you may have a genetic (inherited) predisposition for diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
- Have regular medical check-ups and initiate early treatment for high blood pressure.
- Metabolic Syndrome: Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 295 No. 7, February 15, 2006
- Metabolic Syndrome: Healthy Ontario.com 2010