Metabolic syndrome isn’t just one thing but is instead a combination of various risk factors that increase your chance of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke. It is known by a variety of different names, such as insulin resistance syndrome, Syndrome X, or dysmetabolic syndrome, but they all refer to the same collection of heart disease risk factors.
How Common is Metabolic Syndrome?
The commonly accepted statistic regarding the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the United States is that about one in every five Americans has it. This condition is more common with age. Therefore, while one in five Americans has it, they are not equally distributed among all age groups. Among people aged 60 years and older, 40 percent (more than 2 out of every three people) have it.
Your likelihood of having metabolic syndrome increases if any of the following apply to you:
- Obesity in which the weight is primarily stored in the abdomen/waist area
- Diabetes mellitus or a family history of the condition
- Other clinical indicators of “insulin resistance” such as skin tags (usually on the neck area) or darkened skin on the back of the neck or underarms.
- Certain higher risk ethnic backgrounds
- Age, as the higher your age, the greater your risk.
Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Typically, symptoms don’t appear early in the development of metabolic syndrome. Instead, the issues causing symptoms occur over time. Therefore, if you have any reason to suspect that you might have this condition, regardless of whether you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.
A doctor will be able to help you know whether your risk level is high enough to warrant tests such as a blood pressure test, a lipid profile (triglycerides and HDL) and blood glucose levels. These are all very simple, common, fast, and non-invasive tests.
Can You Prevent It?
Two main contributors to the development of metabolic syndrome over which we have control (unlike heredity, for example), are healthy lifestyle including regular exercise and a nutritious diet, and weight loss if obesity is present. Healthy body weight, nutritious diet and regular physical activity can all help to prevent the onset of the condition and can reduce the risk of complications if it develops.
A doctor may also choose to prescribe medications to help manage certain issues associated with metabolic syndrome.
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic recommend the following to prevent metabolic syndrome’s development in the first place:
- A balanced, nutritious diet with a focus on weight control. If you are overweight or obese, losing even 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help to restore the body’s proper insulin balance and substantially reduce the risk of serious illness resulting from metabolic syndrome.
- Dietary changes focusing on making sure you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables, that you’re eating quality whole grain carbohydrates, and that you’re eating lean proteins and healthy fats in appropriate quantities.
- Regular exercise consisting of about 150 minutes of cardio per week, which could easily consist of a brisk half hour walk on most days. That said, even if you can’t perform 150 minutes of activity each week, any improvements you can make will help.
Can Metabolic Syndrome Be Reversed?
If you have received a metabolic syndrome diagnosis, it’s important for you to discuss the right lifestyle changes with your doctor to reverse it. The fact is that in most cases, with proper changes which may include weight loss/maintenance, diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and medication, you can halt it in its tracks and reduce your risk of the development of an even more serious health condition.