Metabolic Syndrome: It's A Matter of Numbers

Published March 9, 2009

Updaed Oct. 30, 2008 - What does metabolic syndrom have to do with diabetes? Doctors used to look at our blood pressure, blood glucose (also called blood sugar), cholesterol, and body weight as separate numbers and separate health issues. More recently, health care professionals began to look at a collection of several borderline or abnormal results in those numbers as indications of one illness: metabolic syndrome. And they say metabolic syndrome can be a leading indicator that problems with diabetes may not be far behind.

The indicators medical professionals look for include:

  • High blood cholesterol
  • Increased waist line
  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides
  • Elevated blood glucose
  • Low HDL cholesterol

Metabolic Syndrome has also been referred to as Syndrome X. It connects diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure as possibly being driven by the same causes. What are these causes and when did they get so mean?

The root cause of metabolic syndrome is a combination of genetic predisposition and our living environment.  And while it's hard to pinpoint, insulin resistance is one starting place.
 
Insulin Resistance
 
Insulin is a hormone that the body makes to perform many functions essential to life. Insulin directs muscles to take in protein, fat cells to store fat, and for glucose to go into cells to be used for fuel. The problem starts when the body becomes less sensitive to insulin knocking at the cell door, so to speak. The loss of insulin sensitivity occurs with increasing age, inactivity, overeating and certain medications. As insulin sensitivity is lost, insulin resistance develops.
 
Remember, the main role of insulin is to help glucose leave the blood stream and go into cells. If insulin is unable to clear glucose from the blood in a normal amount of time, high blood glucose (or hyperglycemia) results.

It turns out that high blood glucose can increase insulin resistance. Insulin is knocking and cells still won't let them in. To fix that, the body produces more insulin, resulting in too much insulin in the blood (hyperinsulinemia). As the body produces more insulin, insulin turns into an unfriendly messenger. It is can raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Over time, insulin production drops off, and its ability to keep blood glucose within a normal range begins to diminish.

For some, the starting point for insulin resistance is weight gain. And what are the two main contributors to weight gain? Inactivity and over-eating.  So, the first numbers to learn are those that scream "weight gain."

This article was supplied by the BET Foundation.

For more on how to control metabolic syndrome and possibly curb your risk for diabetes see Metabolic Syndrome: What To Do To Improve Your Numbers. Also, for more information or a free brochure, call 1-866-3LOSEIT.

Written by BET-Staff

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