The concept of Metabolic Syndrome emerged in 1988 when an American endocrinologist Gerald Reaven defined this condition for the first time. He popularized the metabolic syndrome and proposed that its features include the accumulation of visceral (abdominal) adiposity, insulin resistance, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Since then this health condition has become firmly established in our everyday lives (1).
The term “metabolic” refers to the sum of all chemical reactions or biochemical processes in the body. This involves both catabolic (breaking down large molecules for energy ) and anabolic (building up large complex molecules) reactions. When we speak about “metabolic syndrome” it means a dysfunction of biochemical processes in your body increasing the risk of many severe health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
In the different sources, Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) can also be called “The insulin resistance syndrome” or “Syndrome X”. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high triglyceride levels, low HDL and high LDL cholesterol. Having one or more of any of these conditions increases your risk of metabolic syndrome.
MetS is a complex, multifactorial disorder. I would say that metabolic syndrome is not a disease. It is very likely, a response to the physical inactivity and “modern food” which is high in calories and low in vital nutrients.
Symptoms and risk factors of metabolic syndrome
People, who are overweight or obese (extra fat tissue) have more chance to develop MetS, especially if they continue to gain five or more pounds per year than people with normal body weight (2). In general, this condition, in the beginning, might have no visible symptoms. However, abdominal obesity, at least 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, is not only a very common risk factor but is also a visible sign of having or developing MetS.
Metabolic Syndrome in children
Unfortunately, children are also in the epicenter of this issue. It’s scary but true that the prevalence of MetS among children and adolescents is increasing as well, in parallel with rising obesity rates (3). You might be surprised that these days the prevalence of high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol do not just occur in older people but children as well. Thanks to an increasing obesity epidemic among children they experience some of these symptoms in childhood which can be aggravated in adult life. (4, 5). This is something parents should know about and consider to help their children to prevent the increased risk factors which may lead to severe health problems now and in the future.
High Blood Pressure is another risk factor and symptom of this health condition. You may not feel high blood pressure and it may go unnoticed unless you check/ measure it regularly.
✓ Low blood pressure is lower than 90/60mm/Hg
✓ Normal blood pressure is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
✓ High blood pressure is 140/90mmHg or higher
If your blood pressure is between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg you might be at risk of developing hypertension and accordingly metabolic syndrome.
High Blood Sugar
If your blood sugar is high (hyperglycemia) you may have symptoms such as fatigue, blurred vision, increased thirst, increased urination and recurrent infections, including bladder infections (cystitis) and skin infections. Symptoms of hyperglycemia can also be due to undiagnosed diabetes. You need to see your GP to have a test to check for the condition.
Blood glucose targets
A normal target of blood glucose levels:
🗸 3.5–5.5mmol/l before meals
🗸 less than 8mmol/l, two hours after meals.
Total cholesterol levels should be 5mmol/L or less.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) carries cholesterol away from the cells back
to the liver and is referred to as a “good cholesterol”. An ideal level is above 1mmol/L. A lower level may enhance the risk of heart disease.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) carries cholesterol to the cells that need it but a high LDL level in some cases may build up in the walls of the arteries and is known as “bad cholesterol”. Your LDL level should be 3mmol/L or less.
You can also calculate your ratio of total cholesterol: the total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. The general ratio should be below four as a higher ratio may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you consume calories that your body doesn’t need to use right away it converts them into triglycerides. A higher level of 1.7mmol/L of triglycerides can be a metabolic risk factor for metabolic syndrome.
Additional symptoms and risk factors
✔ Age – your risk of MetS increases with age. 40 % of people over 50 years old are affected in the UK and USA and almost 30% in EU.
✔ Race – Asian, Afro-Caribbean people and Hispanics may be at greater risk than people of other races.
✔ Other conditions: your risk of metabolic syndrome is greater if you’ve had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women, cardiovascular disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Also, there can be breathing problems during sleep (apnea) and an increased risk of developing blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis as well as a high tendency to have chronic inflammation throughout your body, including the arteries. Inflammation is highly linked to visceral obesity and insulin resistance.
When to see a doctor
MetS is a symptomless condition. But if you have abdominal obesity perhaps it is time to visit your GP to measure your blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol levels. Your GP may request other tests in order to gain more information about your general health.
How to prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome
There is very good news: by making a number of lifestyle changes you may prevent or even reverse your metabolic syndrome (6).
Unfortunately, MetS became a pandemic due to growing obesity in almost all countries and it continues to increase (8). Eventually, metabolic syndrome can be a leading factor for cardiovascular disease which is the number one killer in the world.
The primary goal of the prevention of Metabolic Syndrome is promoting aggressive and heart-healthy lifestyle changes. These include a healthy diet, increased physical activity and good stress management to start with for both adults and children.
If you need my help please read more about my individual programme “How to Beat Metabolic Syndrome Naturally”. This programme is effective for both children and adults. If you decide to go on your “health journey” alone I wish you Good Luck!
If you would like to be free of pain and let yourself enjoy life, you can contact me to book a Skype consultation via “contact” page and get a free consultation.
I wish you great health and happiness!
Yours ever Alla_Nutrition