The Facts About Syndrome X or Metabolic Syndrome
As the baby boomer generation matures, we are going to start hearing more about syndrome X. Syndrome X is also called the metabolic syndrome and it is something we need to be aware of.
What is Syndrome X (Metabolic Syndrome)
Syndrome X is actually a group of medical conditions that can lead to more serious medical conditions and heart disease. Syndrome X has been known about for many years, more recently it is being mentioned more, since it is becoming more common and more of a concern. The medical conditions in a person that are associated with syndrome X includes insulin resistance, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and usually overweight or obese. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institute of Health (NIH), American Heart Association and other institutes agree that if a person has three or more of the following symptoms they have syndrome X or metabolic syndrome.
- High blood pressure: A reading of 135/80 or higher. Or the person is already taking blood pressure medicine.
- Belly fat defined as a waist size of 40” (102 cm) or larger for men and 35” (89 cm) or greater for women.
- Cholesterol: A low HDL (the good cholesterol) reading. For men, less than 40 mg/dl and for women, less than 50 mg/dl is low, or is already using cholesterol lowering medicine.
- Cholesterol: A high triglyceride reading of 150 mg/dl or higher. Or you are already using cholesterol lowering medicine.
- Blood sugar: A high fasting glucose level of 100 mg/dl.
The Causes of Syndrome X (Metabolic Syndrome)
Syndrome X is not a single disease but a collection of symptom or risk factors. Some experts say they don’t know why certain people get metabolic syndrome. Other experts say that it can be genetic; if your family history includes type II diabetes or heart disease you could be at a higher risk for syndrome X.
And still another group of doctors believe that metabolic syndrome is a direct result of the rise in junk foods, processed foods and the over consumption of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The increase of metabolic syndrome corresponds with the rise in obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Symptoms of Syndrome X (Metabolic Syndrome)
High blood pressure is a sign that a person could be in the beginning stages of metabolic syndrome. High blood pressure can be present in people without the other signs, like overweight or diabetes. So that could be a wake up call. High blood pressure is certainly a sign that should be taken seriously and start watching for the other symptoms. If you find you have high blood pressure, there are natural ways you can lower your blood pressure without medicine before it becomes serious.
Insulin Resistance. Insulin is a hormone that controls the metabolism of carbohydrates. When we eat carbohydrates, our digestive system turns this food into glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar that gives us energy and is important for muscles and brain functions. This glucose then travels through our blood and is called blood glucose or blood sugar. When the pancreas sees this blood glucose, it then makes insulin. Insulin meets the glucose and this combination is what allows the glucose to enter the cells of muscles and the brain to do its job.
Insulin resistance occurs when the cells of the body do not respond properly to the insulin. Then the pancreas continues to make more and more insulin so that the glucose can enter the cells of the brain, muscles and other parts of the body. Many times a person with insulin resistance will have high levels of insulin and glucose in their blood at the same time.
Insulin resistance is basically where the proper amount of insulin cannot do its job getting the glucose into the needed areas of the body. So the pancreas continues to make more insulin until at some point the pancreas cannot keep up with the need to continue producing insulin. This increases the risk of a person getting type II diabetes.
Cholesterol levels. HDL is the good cholesterol and LDL is the bad. I remember this by thinking the H in HDL means happy. HDL is easy to measure, but LDL isn’t as easy to measure. There are actually two types of LDL.
A small amount of cholesterol is needed by our body for various functions and is made in the liver. You also get cholesterol from animal foods like dairy, meat, poultry and fish. Too much cholesterol from foods can raise your cholesterol levels.
You can raise your HDL and lower your LDL levels by quitting smoking, exercise, losing weight and eating healthier fats from olive and peanut oils, nuts, fish, flax seed and other omega-3 containing foods.
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood and they come from too much sugar, alcohol, untreated or poorly managed diabetes and too many calories. This excess is then converted and stored in the body as fat. A high triglyceride level combined with a low HDL level is a sign you could have heart disease or are at an increased risk.
Belly fat is dangerous to our health more than having fat around the thighs or hips. There are two types of belly fat, outside of the abdominal muscles and inside the abdominal muscles. Inside is worse because fat doesn’t belong there and it is too close to the internal organs. Weighing yourself can also fool you. Weight takes into account water, muscle and fat. By measuring your waist and your hips, you come up with the waist to hip ratio. Divide the waist in inches by the hips in inches. A ratio of more than .95 for men and more than .80 for women is considered too high.
Syndrome X or metabolic syndrome will be something we start hearing more about. Whether you have or don’t have genetic reasons for these symptoms, you should be aware of them and take measures to keep them from becoming worse. Syndrome X starts with a bad diet, which leads to belly fat. Being overweight then leads to high blood pressure and bad cholesterol readings. Belly fat creeps up on us until it just seems like it’s there. Just because you are into middle age doesn’t mean you have to have the middle age belly or any of the symptoms of Syndrome X or metabolic syndrome.
© 2010 Sam Montana
American Heart Association
National Cholesterol Education Program