Metabolic syndrome is a set of conditions that greatly increase the risk of developing health problems, including heart disease and some forms of cancer. Here are five risk factors of metabolic syndrome.
1. High Fasting Glucose Levels
Metabolic syndrome is associated with high fasting glucose levels. Fasting glucose is a condition in which no glucose is available for the body to use as energy. Fasting glucose occurs when the body has not eaten in at least eight hours and is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). For example, if one’s fasting glucose level is 100 mg/dl, there are 100 mg of sugar available for the body’s use as energy. Fasting glucose levels are an important risk factor for developing diabetes. In addition, high fasting glucose levels also increase bad cholesterol levels, which contributes to the development of atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries.
2. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is another risk factor for metabolic syndrome. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. The higher your blood pressure, the more strain your heart and blood vessels are put on. The two numbers that are reported for blood pressure are systolic and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the top number representing the maximum force exerted on your arteries, and diastolic pressure is the bottom number representing the minimum force exerted on your arteries. A person’s blood pressure reading is considered high if it falls in a range that is above 140/90 mmHg. These readings can cause damage to blood vessels, which can eventually lead to strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure.
3. High Triglycerides
Triglycerides are an important type of fat found in our bodies. Cholesterol travels through our bloodstream attached to these fats, which helps deliver cholesterol to cells throughout our body. However, too much cholesterol can be deposited in our arteries as plaque, causing them to harden or narrow over time. High triglyceride levels have been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, but this link may not be as strong as other risk factors such as high LDL cholesterol levels. Triglycerides can also contribute to inflammation in the body, which may increase one’s risk for certain types of cancer. Overall, it would be best for one’s triglyceride levels to fall below 150 mg/dL.
4. High Blood Sugar
Blood sugar, or glucose, is a sugar that provides energy to cells in the body. It is carried through the bloodstream to cells by another type of fat called insulin. When blood sugar levels are too high, there may be an overproduction of insulin in the body, which can lead to a condition known as insulin resistance. This occurs when cells fail to respond to insulin properly and stop taking glucose from the bloodstream. High blood sugar levels are associated with cardiovascular disease and an increased risk for premature death. One’s fasting blood glucose level should be below 100 mg/dL for optimal health.
5. Low HDL Cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol because it helps carry “bad” LDL cholesterol out of one’s bloodstream through reverse cholesterol transport. HDL levels decrease with age and are lower in women than men, but low levels have also been linked with high triglyceride levels, which may indicate a greater risk for heart disease. Although this risk factor may seem contradictory because low HDL levels are generally associated with lower heart disease risk, low levels of HDL have been shown to increase the risk in people with metabolic syndrome because they are more likely than others to carry excess fat around their waistline which increases their risk for developing heart disease and diabetes later in life.
Metabolic syndrome is a heterogeneous disorder characterized by several metabolic abnormalities. The list of risk factors is long, but the most important ones include high fasting glucose levels, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol levels. The management of metabolic syndrome should focus on weight loss, exercise, diet, and medication, i.e., statins for LDL cholesterol-lowering. More research is needed to determine how to prevent it as well as how best to treat it once detected.