About This Condition
Metabolic syndrome is a group of health risk factors that often occur together and increase the likelihood of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome include high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, high waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio, low HDL-cholesterol levels, and high triglyceride levels. A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is made if a person has three or more of these conditions, and the more aspects of metabolic syndrome a person has, the greater their risk of type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.1,2 In addition, metabolic syndrome is associated with increased risks of fatty liver disease, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and cancer.3,4,5,6 Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) frequently develop a similar group of metabolic disturbances.7
It is now widely accepted that the interrelationship between insulin resistance and malfunctioning fat tissue underlies metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance occurs when insulin is no longer effective at getting cells to respond to rising glucose levels. Over time, insulin resistance causes impaired functioning of fat cells, which play a critical role in regulating metabolism. Expansion of malfunctioning fat tissue, particularly in the abdomen, further reduces sensitivity to insulin signaling. Together, these conditions lead to chronically increased production of tissue-damaging inflammatory chemicals. This chronic inflammatory state is linked to progressive injury to the inner lining of the blood vessels and to organs and tissues throughout the body.3,9,10
In addition to the recommendations discussed below, people with metabolic syndrome may benefit from some of the recommendations given for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as obesity, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and hypertension.