Unholy Alliance: The Many Parts of Metabolic Syndrome

Dr. Christopher McGowan
marzo 18, 2021

Imagine a condition that has few visible symptoms, affects 20% of all Americans, nearly 40% of people in their 60s and 70s, and could dramatically increase your risk of heart attack. Now imagine that condition is something you have probably never heard of and know little about. 

If this sounds a bit alarming, or like there is a silent danger running through the population, you would be right. The description above is a quick overview of metabolic syndrome, and if you are severely overweight or suffering from obesity, it is something you should know more about. 

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Unlike some other conditions with a very specific set of symptoms or effects, metabolic syndrome is a set of risk factors that are strongly correlated with an increased likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, and the risk of stroke. Other names for this syndrome are insulin resistance syndrome, Syndrome X, and dysmetabolic syndrome. 

This syndrome is characterized by more than just being overweight. Where the fat is stored on your body also matters. An increase in abdominal fat is a significant risk factor for being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Similarly, having high blood sugar or high blood pressure levels in and of themselves can be problematic for your health, but seeing these and other factors together points to a more worrying situation. For this reason, the criteria for being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome vary across a few different areas of your overall health, but all connect back to your risk of developing  cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Rather than a separate risk in and of itself, metabolic syndrome should be taken as an indicator of potentially serious consequences to being overweight that could be waiting for you down the road. The longer you maintain a high body mass index, the more you increase your chances of heart disease and diabetes, as well as many other diseases and conditions throughout the body.

What are the Five Signs of Metabolic Syndrome?

You can be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you meet five criteria. There may be other indications you are at risk for heart disease or diabetes, but the five important signals for metabolic syndrome are:

  • A waistline of at least 40 inches for men or at least 35 inches for women 
  • A fasting blood sugar level above 100 mg/dl (or if you are on blood glucose-lowering medications)
  • Blood pressure readings of 130/85 mm Hg or higher (or if you are on blood pressure medications)
  • A triglyceride levels greater than 150 mg/dl
  • A high density lipoprotein level (HDL cholesterol) below 40 mg/dl for men or lower than 50 mg/dl for women

Other risk factors may be looked at as well if you don’t meet the above criteria, but your doctor still thinks you may be at risk of developing metabolic syndrome in the future. Family history of obesity and cardiovascular disease may be taken into account. Additionally, ethnicity, abdominal obesity, or even cholesterol levels that may not meet the specific criteria set out above, can still point to an increased risk of potential health problems down the road. Being diagnosed with prediabetes is also an indication that you are at a higher risk of metabolic syndrome unless you begin to make some lifestyle changes to start down a new path.

Since there is no single, defining criteria that makes for a positive diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, be in touch with your healthcare provider to keep tabs on various aspects of your overall health to know where you stand. It could be that you do not meet all the criteria, but your doctor may decide that worrying indicators in other areas signify an increased risk of potential health concerns. 

What is the Main Cause of Metabolic Syndrome?

There are many different medical conditions you can get by doing something wrong, but metabolic syndrome can come about by not doing something—specifically, not exercising. Extremely reduced physical activity paired with an unhealthy diet can put you on the fast track to metabolic syndrome. It should come as no surprise that these are listed as putting you at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and many kinds of cardiovascular disease. 

There can be many things that contribute to metabolic syndrome. Family history, an occupation that leaves you stuck at a desk for long hours, sleep apnea (itself usually caused by weight gain), other sleep disturbances, chronic stress, and poor dietary habits can all contribute to the excess body weight, especially around your midsection, which is characteristic of metabolic syndrome. 

How do I Prevent or Reverse Metabolic Syndrome?

It is important to know that a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome means you are at an increased risk of serious, life-threatening conditions such as diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, dangerously high blood pressure (hypertension), and more. A host of other conditions like sleep apnea, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, certain kinds of cancers, and polycystic ovary syndrome can all have higher prevalence in individuals whose waist circumference, fasting glucose levels, and body mass index (BMI) put them in a high risk category for metabolic syndrome.

It is important to know that being diagnosed with a metabolic disorder is not a death sentence. It is, however, a wake-up call to take an active role in your own healthcare. You will need to be more active and improve your dietary habits if you are going to reverse the weight gain that has put you at risk in the first place. 

There are some risk factors for developing metabolic syndrome that you cannot control, such as family history, ethnicity, and even growing older. There are, however, some things you can do to get started on the path to a healthier life. Replacing simple processed foods with whole grains is going to be a good start, but getting high blood sugar and lipid levels under control is going to take long-lasting, sustainable changes to your lifestyle and diet. Similarly, just walking 20-30 minutes three times a week if your doctor says it is safe for you to do so is a good beginning to raise your overall caloric output. This will not likely be enough to get your beltline where it needs to be, but even a small start is important.

Getting Help with Metabolic Syndrome

At True You, we know well the dangers presented by obesity. That is why the sole goal of our practice is to help people who have struggled to lose weight finally find freedom from excess body weight. The last century of medical knowledge has armed us with a wealth of information about the dangers of being overweight, as well as given us new tools to help pull in our waistlines. 

For many people, diet and exercise are simply not enough to make the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce their waist circumference to healthy levels permanently. Fad diets, crash dieting, short-term intense exercise or weight loss programs can all achieve quick results, but these do not often produce the long-lasting results you need. What is more, experiencing repeated, significant fluctuations in weight over a period of years can increase your chances of some forms of cardiovascular disease.

If you are having trouble sorting through the dizzying array of options available to help you get moving on the path to a sustainable, healthy weight, solicitar una consulta today to find out what True You can do for you. Whether it is just coming alongside you with the advice, structure, and counsel of our medical assisted nutrition program or looking into a solution like the ORBERA® Managed Weight Loss System or Spatz3, we are here to help. You may even find that a minimally invasive procedure such as an endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty is the answer you have been looking for to help you lose weight.  

Even if you have already had gastric bypass surgery and have regained weight lost after surgery, our gastric bypass revision options may be the thing you need to get back on track. It is not uncommon for people who have lost a significant amount of weight following a gastric bypass to find they are gaining weight again. This can often be caused by your stomach expanding to allow for more food, and thus more calories, in your diet. This is not the end of the story, though, as gastric bypass revision can restore your stomach to the new, smaller size you had after your bypass, thereby helping you stay on track to lose weight through caloric deficit. 

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan
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