Statistics show that the number of people diagnosed with metabolic syndrome is increasing dramatically in industrialized countries. On average, we are talking about 30-40% of the adult population, reaching 60% in the case of some ethnic groups¹.
Metabolic syndrome is not an isolated disease but rather a broad term used to combine factors that consistently and negatively affect metabolic parameters. Also, without changing daily habits, the disease tends to progress.
This article describes why metabolic syndrome arises and what are its health risks and treatments. It can be cured?
What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Although these diseases have been known for a long time, they began to merge into a single concept starting in the 1950s, and in 1990 modern criteria were formed to define a “generalized” disease.
The causes of the appearance of metabolic syndrome can be divided into primary and secondary. The primary ones are the consumption of ultra-processed foods and a chronically sedentary lifestyle. Secondary: excess fat gain in the abdomen (visceral obesity) and the associated change in hormone levels.
The problem is compounded by metabolic syndrome being a progressive condition. Some scientists propose considering it a particular state of fat accumulation, comparable to hibernating animals when external factors lead to a significant change in metabolism³.
Criteria for Recognizing Metabolic Syndrome
According to the criteria of international cardiology bodies³, the presence of metabolic syndrome in a person is recognized when at least three of the following five symptoms are detected:
- Abdominal (visceral) excess obesity is reflected as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, with a waist circumference of more than 94 centimeters in men and more than 80 cm in women.
- Hypertriglyceridemia: triglyceride levels above 1 mmol / L, or drug treatment for high triglyceride levels.
- Low levels of “good” cholesterol. In men, it is less than one mmol / l; in women – less than 1.2 mmol / l.
- Fasting glucose above 5.56 mmol / L, metformin intake, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance (in some cases), or diabetes mellitus.
- High blood pressure: systolic (upper) pressure greater than 130 mm, diastolic pressure (lower) greater than 85 mm.
Consequences and risk factors
The presence of three or more factors from the above list of metabolic syndrome criteria is associated with an increased risk of hormonal disorders, the development of cardiovascular and other diseases, and the probability of gaining even more weight.
Health problems associated with metabolic syndrome include high cortisol levels, chronic inflammation, bleeding disorders, erectile dysfunction, and decreased testosterone levels in men.
The metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women can alter the calcium reabsorption processes, affecting the development of osteoporosis. Remember that one in three women after 50 face fractures is associated with decreased bone density.
RECOMMENDED: Osteoporosis and menopause
Metabolic syndrome and hormones
Visceral obesity associated with metabolic syndrome is itself a severe metabolic disorder. The more internal fat in the abdomen (and the higher the degree of visceral obesity), the more serious the health consequences.
First, the work of the cardiovascular system becomes difficult (cholesterol and blood pressure rise), and there are risks to the musculoskeletal system and joints. At the same time, the increase in visceral fat can alter the production of hormones, directly affecting the metabolism.
This is the case for the critical hormones of satiety and hunger: leptin and ghrelin. These hormones are produced based on how much fat is in the body, and it is an ancient mechanism that our body has to control the urge to eat.
In people with metabolic syndrome, this system fails, the production of these hormones is altered, and hunger is out of control. In the presence of obesity, it is so difficult to control appetite. If treatment is not used, the consequence is a further worsening of excess weight and metabolic syndrome.
Treatment and prevention
In the initial stages, the metabolic syndrome (more precisely, increased glucose levels, blood pressure, and lipid metabolism disorders) is corrected with a healthy diet, increased physical activity, and neglect of bad habits.
The critical challenge, in this case, is to reduce the amount of visceral fat in the abdomen. The Mediterranean and DASH diets, designed to combat hypertension, can be recommended to patients to prevent and treat metabolic syndrome.
The importance of physical activity
Slow but gradual changes are the key to success in fighting the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Expectations that are too high for weight loss are rarely met, but they can negatively affect motivation. Even losing 10% of excess weight per year should be significant.
With this objective, cardiologists recommend that you dedicate at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week if it is not possible to be of impact. Walking is a great way to overcome laziness and get involved in a healthy lifestyle. The level of physical activity should be increased gradually.
To motivate yourself to exercise, look for physical activities adapted to your schedule and personality. If you are more outgoing, seek out group sports and train with friends or co-workers. If you are one of those introverts, you feel more comfortable listening to music and playing sports alone. You will get a taste of new sensations and emotions little by little.
Eating more fiber can help with metabolic syndrome.
The soluble dietary fiber and insoluble have a positive effect on the metabolism and the state of the cardiovascular system. Eating fiber significantly improves health markers in people with high blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels.
Soluble fiber can absorb water and turns into a jelly-like substance in the gastrointestinal tract. The benefit of this fiber is that it serves as food for beneficial bacteria, acting as a natural prebiotic.
In turn, insoluble fiber has a thicker structure and is essential for the mechanical movement of food through the intestines. Its lack in the diet leads to constipation.
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Proper nutrition and regular physical activity can eliminate your symptoms and improve overall well-being and quality of life. This reflects how to prevent and even cure chronic severe diseases such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension.