Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of interconnected risk factors that occur together. These risk factors include
Having any of these risk factors puts a person at risk of developing heart disease. A combination of three or more further increases this risk and the chance of developing diabetes mellitus. There are various definitions of metabolic syndrome, but generally anyone possessing three or more of the above may have metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is linked to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps control the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.
In a normal healthy individual, the digestive system breaks down the food intake into sugar (glucose). Blood then carries glucose to the body's tissues, which cells use as fuel. Glucose enters the cells with the help of insulin.
In people with insulin resistance, cells do not respond normally to insulin, and glucose cannot enter the cells as easily. The body reacts by churning out more and more insulin to make up for the lack of glucose in the cells. This results in higher than normal levels of insulin in the blood. This eventually leads to diabetes when the body is unable to make enough insulin to control the blood glucose to within the normal range.
Even if glucose levels are not high enough to be considered diabetes, an elevated glucose level can still be harmful. Some doctors refer to this condition as "prediabetes." Increased insulin raises triglyceride level and other blood fat levels.
Being overweight or obese and having an expanding waistline predisposes one to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is treatable by lifestyle changes and/or medication. Regular physical activity, healthy eating, smoking cessation and maintaining a healthy weight are ways to improve overall health and reduce the chances of metabolic syndrome. Doctors may also prescribe medication to lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and sugar levels.