What is Metabolic Syndrome?

By Laura DeAndrade, MSN, ANP-BC

Metabolic syndrome is the clinical term for a series of risk factors that can put you at risk for other health conditions like coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes. When a person meets three out of the following five criteria’s, they are said to have metabolic syndrome.

  1. A large waistline – otherwise known as “abdominal obesity”.
    • Men with a 40 inch waistline or above
    • Women with a 35 inch waistline or above
  2. Fasting glucose greater than or equal to 100mg/dl
  3. Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 or anyone already taking blood pressure medications.
  4. Triglyceride level greater than or equal to 150.
  5. Low HDL cholesterol
  • Men less than 40mg/dl
  • Women less than 50mg/dl

If you have metabolic syndrome, your body is resistant to the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps to drawn glucose back into the cells where it is used for energy. If you are resistant to the effects of insulin, the pancreas overcompensates and secretes additional insulin. The cells may resist the high levels of insulin and glucose then builds up in the blood, resulting in high blood glucose levels (prediabetes or type 2 diabetes).
The risk of having metabolic syndrome is closely linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. By knowing this, it’s obvious the goal of treatment is weight loss and increasing physical activity where possible. Treating the underlying risk factors is important in the beginning (treating high blood pressure, treating cholesterol levels, and using medications to control blood sugar when necessary). Most importantly, weight loss is recommended.

For some severely obese individuals with metabolic syndrome, weight loss surgery can play a role. Studies have shown that obese people who underwent weight loss surgery had significant reductions in the components of metabolic syndrome one year after surgery. In addition to weight loss, patients also had a substantial reduction in blood pressure, blood glucose, triglycerides and total cholesterol levels. Through weight loss surgery alone, you can reduce metabolic syndrome and its risk factors by almost 95% if necessary weight loss is achieved. Speak to your medical provider if you currently have metabolic syndrome and if bariatric surgery is the right choice for you.

Metabolic syndrome is becoming more common due to a rise in obesity rates among adults. In the future, metabolic syndrome may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease. It is possible to prevent or delay metabolic syndrome, mainly with lifestyle changes. A healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment. Successfully controlling metabolic syndrome requires long-term effort and teamwork with your health care provider or bariatric surgeon.

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