What is Metabolic Syndrome?

You may not have heard of metabolic syndrome, but it’s one of the most common health dangers in the country. As many as one-third of American adults have metabolic syndrome, and if left unmanaged, the condition could be deadly. What is metabolic syndrome, who’s at risk, and what can you do if you think you might have it? Keep reading to find out.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome describes a cluster of five risk factors that increase your risk of ischemic heart disease and other severe chronic health conditions such as stroke and type II diabetes. Ischemic heart disease occurs when plaque, a waxy material, builds up inside the heart’s arteries, making it difficult for blood to flow adequately through the body as it hardens. If untreated, ischemic heart disease can result in chest pain, heart attack, and even death.

What are the Five Factors that Cause Metabolic Syndrome?

The five dangerous health conditions that, if present, result in metabolic syndrome and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes include:

  • Increased blood pressure, which over time, can damage your heart
  • Excess body fat around the waist called abdominal obesity
  • High triglyceride levels, as triglycerides are a form of fat found in the blood
  • Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol; often called good cholesterol since it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries; if your HDL levels are too low, you could be at risk for heart disease
  • High fasting blood sugar, which could be an early warning sign of type II diabetes and may be the result of insulin resistance, a condition in which the body can’t properly use insulin

Metabolic syndrome is becoming increasingly common among U.S. adults in part because of the rise of obesity in our country. Some health researchers predict that metabolic syndrome may soon surpass smoking as the leading cause of heart disease.

If I Have One Risk Factor, Do I have Metabolic Syndrome?

The presence of just one of the health factors listed above does not mean that you have metabolic syndrome. However, any of the four health factors can increase your risk of dangerous health conditions, particularly if unmanaged. If you have three or more, your doctor will most likely diagnose you with metabolic syndrome and talk to you about reversing your symptoms.

What to Do if You are Diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a severe condition, but it does not have to escalate into a catastrophic event. Aggressive lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, regular exercise, and healthy diet changes, can all help reduce the health factors that lead to metabolic syndrome, and that put you at risk for a heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. If you believe that you might be at risk of developing metabolic syndrome—and its related health dangers, talk to your doctor. They can help you create a treatment plan to improve your health and reduce your chances of a dangerous and possibly deadly health event.