Understanding Metabolic Syndrome
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for a series of health problems. One common obesity-related condition is metabolic syndrome.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a collection of medical conditions that commonly develop in association with obesity. There are five primary risk factors considered in metabolic syndrome. If at least three of them occur together, the condition is diagnosed.
The metabolic risk factors are:
- Obesity: Specifically, having visceral fat (or a build-up of fat around the abdomen)
- High triglyceride levels: Triglycerides are a form of blood fat that increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Abnormal cholesterol levels: This includes having a high LDL or “bad” cholesterol and/or a low HDL or “good” cholesterol.
- High blood sugar: Also called hyperglycemia. People with high blood glucose may have insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes.
- Hypertension: This is more commonly referred to as high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease.
It is common for these health conditions to develop independently. When three of these conditions are diagnosed together, your risk for heart attack or stroke amplifies. A diagnosis of just one of these conditions does not mean that you have metabolic syndrome, but it will increase your risk of developing a serious health problem like heart disease.
Health Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Each of the medical conditions that contribute to metabolic syndrome poses their own health risks. When the conditions develop concurrently, those health risks are amplified.
Metabolic syndrome increases your risk for health complications like:
- Heart attack
Your risk of experiencing these concerns increases with each metabolic risk factor you develop. Other medical and environmental factors, like smoking, following a poor diet, a lack of physical activity or having conditions like sleep apnea may increase your risk for heart attack or stroke even more.
Having metabolic syndrome makes you twice as likely to experience a heart attack in comparison to a healthy individual, and makes you up to five times as likely to develop diabetes.
Treatment for Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is treated by independently addressing each of the underlying health concerns. Often, making a collection of lifestyle changes can improve your health and reduce the severity of the conditions that contribute to metabolic syndrome.
These lifestyle changes generally include:
- Adopting a healthier diet
- Exercising regularly
- Losing weight
Medications to control blood sugar, blood pressure and blood fats may also be prescribed to help manage metabolic syndrome. Weight loss medications are also often helpful in reducing the severity of the underlying health concerns. In some cases, losing weight can actually reverse the onset of obesity-related disease and reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a medical condition that prevents the body from properly processing blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is highly associated with excess weight and afflicts many obese people, putting them at risk of disabling symptoms and complications.
Because type 2 diabetes and its precursors are closely tied to obesity, weight loss is often all that is needed to improve or resolve them. Even a moderate amount of weight loss can help many people reduce diabetes medications and even put the disease into remission.
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that occurs when the airway is temporarily obstructed during sleep, causing disruptions in breathing. These interruptions can last a few seconds at a time or more than a minute, and may occur between 5-30 times over the course of an hour. Breathing often resumes with loud snoring choking or gasping sound, which can further interrupt sleep.
Obesity and Joint Pain
Obesity is among the leading causes of immobility in adults. An accumulation of excess body weight increases pressure on the joints, especially the hips, knees and ankles. Over time, excess weight can cause cartilage in these joints to wear down, and this may lead to severe pain and difficulty walking.
Arthritis is a chronic condition caused by inflammation in the joints. It can develop at any joint in the body, including the ankles and knees, the hips, the wrists or elbows. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, sometimes called wear-and-tear arthritis.
In small quantities, fat is useful to our health. Unfortunately, we often eat more fat than necessary for benefits like nutrient absorption and joint protection. Our bodies do what they can to push excess fat into storage, leading to weight gain, but often the excess fat will also build-up in the blood stream.
This may lead to unhealthy blood levels of fats or lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides . When this occurs, the condition is known as hyperlipidemia.
Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the walls of the arteries as the heart beats. If this pressure remains consistently high, this can cause a number of health issues. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 1 in 3 adults in the US have hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.
People who have hypertension often experience few or no symptoms, but over time, their bodies may still suffer harmful effects, including heart, blood vessel and kidney damage.
Understanding Acid Reflux
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a chronic condition resulting in the contents of the stomach flowing back up and irritating the esophagus. Normally, a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) would prevent anything from returning up through the esophagus, but due to factors such as obesity, pregnancy or smoking, the LES may become weakened and unable to properly block the stomach’s content.ay.
Obesity and Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the United States. Every year, about 600,000 Americans die from heart disease. That is one death every minute related to heart disease. If you are overweight or obese, you are at higher risk of developing heart disease. Losing weight is one of the more effective ways of reducing that risk.
Joint Pain and Obesity
Obesity and excessive weight can lead to unnecessary wear and tear on your body. Carrying extra weight makes it more difficult to move around and accelerates the wear on your joints and your spine. Extra weight makes it difficult to perform simple tasks that rely on your joints for movement such as squatting, running or climbing stairs. It can also lead to joint disorders such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.