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Metabolic syndrome is one of the most common health conditions in the world, although complete understanding and awareness of it are quite limited. Metabolic syndrome does not include only one condition; in fact, it is defined as a cluster of health risks, which together increase the patient’s risk of having a stroke, diabetes, cancer or heart disease. These conditions include: excess fat around the waist, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood sugar, high blood pressure. All of these conditions can be present on their own, with no connection to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome occurs when the patient suffers from two or more of them at the same time.
One of the most interesting facts about metabolic syndrome is that it was introduced in medical textbooks very recently, in 1998 and its causes are still being researched. Other names for metabolic syndrome include “syndrome X”, “insulin resistance syndrome,” and “American syndrome”. However, this condition is very widespread, some experts estimating that it is as common as acne and the common cold. In the United States, more than 45 million people have it. One in six people is expected to develop metabolic syndrome at one point in their lives, especially after the age of 65. In the past years, the incidence of metabolic syndrome has increased, one possible cause being the rise in obesity rates. At present, it is estimated that almost 35% of Americans suffer from metabolic syndrome. Nearly half the instances of metabolic syndrome occur in people over the age of 60.
Metabolic syndrome can go undiagnosed for years because sometimes there are no symptoms of metabolic syndrome or they are very subtle and the patient does not notice them. However, some seemingly innocent signs can announce the presence of this cluster of conditions. Metabolic syndrome signs include:
Apart from a wide waist circumference and high blood sugar, the rest of metabolic syndrome symptoms are not noticeable. The patient doesn’t feel that they have high cholesterol or high blood pressure unless they have a doctor measure these levels, which is why it is important not to skip routine medical examinations.
The causes of metabolic syndrome are not yet fully understood, but there is a clear connection between the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and the following conditions:
Because the symptoms of metabolic syndrome are not always obvious and people who are not medical professionals might not be aware of the existence of this condition, accurate metabolic syndrome diagnosis can only be given by a doctor, after a series of investigations. These include:
If the patient has three of the five risk factors, then they are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a preventable condition and people can reduce the chances of getting it by checking these risk factors of metabolic syndrome:
Because metabolic syndrome is not one condition, but a cluster of serious conditions, treatment is very complex and involves tackling each of them. First of all, metabolic syndrome treatment starts by making lifestyle changes to reduce the risk factors that may cause it or worsen it. This is the first course of action that doctors recommend. After diagnosis, the healthcare provider will identify the lifestyle habits that caused metabolic syndrome and develop a six months plan, suggesting gradual changes. These lifestyle changes play an essential role in the management and care for metabolic syndrome and, in some cases, they are enough to slow down the disease, making it easier to manage. From case to case, suggestions include:
More often than not, if the patient respects the doctor’s suggestions, improvements will be noticeable during the follow-up examination after six months. However, if the degree of severity of the condition is the same, then further medical treatment will be required, including:
In 2011, there has been an attempt to introduce one drug for metabolic syndrome, called Juvisync. It contained simvastatin and sitagliptin and was supposed to lower LDL levels and increase insulin levels. However, two years later it was discontinued for business reasons.
Although smoking itself does not cause metabolic disease, it increases the risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure, so patients are advised to quit smoking as soon as possible.
In general, metabolic syndrome has a good outlook, especially the patient respects the recommendations of the healthcare provider and try to lead a healthier lifestyle, with a balanced diet and physical exercise. Symptoms can be controlled and patients can continue to lead a normal life. However, there will always be a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke and other metabolic syndrome complications:
Metabolic syndrome prevention is very effective. According to a 2005 study, patients who already showed some of the main triggers of metabolic syndrome, but changed their lifestyle, showed a 40% improvement in their condition. Not only do these prevention methods help avoid metabolic syndrome, but also reduce the risk for other disorders and complications:
Metabolic syndrome is a serious condition, but the outlook is positive and it can be reversed if the patient changes his lifestyle to control risk factors. People who have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome can lead normal lives, but they have to pay more attention to physical exercises, healthy nutrition and avoid bad habits such as smoking and excess alcohol. If their healthcare provider recommended them drugs to maintain blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol under control, they should continue taking these drugs for the prescribed period. Last, but not least, they should not skip their routine checkups and schedule regular medical visits to make sure their condition is kept under control.