Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe
Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of several heart disease risk factors. The prevalence in Africa is increasing, and it tends to increase with age. This increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the continent is thought to be due to the departure from traditional African to western lifestyles.
In Africa, it is not limited to adults but is also becoming common among the young ones. Obesity and dyslipidemia seem to be the most common components. While obesity appears more common in females, hypertension tends to be more predominant in males.
One in every two South Africans suffers from obesity, which increases the individual’s risk to develop metabolic syndrome. In fact, it is estimated that one in every four South Africans already has the syndrome. You have metabolic syndrome when you have the following cluster of conditions: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. When these occur together, you are at increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
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If you have metabolic syndrome, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems. Your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke increases with the number of metabolic risk factors you have.
The risk of having metabolic syndrome is closely linked to overweight and obesity and a lack of physical activity. Metabolic syndrome is becoming more common due to a rise in obesity rates among adults. In the future, metabolic syndrome may well overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.
A large waist circumference (pot-belly) is the most obvious symptom, otherwise, you might appear to be symptomless. Also if your blood sugar is very high, you might have signs and symptoms of diabetes which include increased thirst and urination, fatigue, and blurred vision.
The most obvious cause is being overweight and obese, and lack of physical activity. Insulin resistance is also closely linked to metabolic syndrome.
Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that helps break down the sugar that you take in to be used as fuel by the cells. In people with insulin resistance, cells don’t respond normally to insulin, and glucose can’t enter the cells as easily. As a result, glucose levels in your blood rise.
Risk factors: following factors increase your chances of having metabolic syndrome:
The complications are very serious and chronic and they include:
According to guidelines used by the National Institutes of Health, you have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of these conditions:
The most important treatment is aggressive lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Speak to your dietician and physician to prescribe the best combination for you.
Your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes that may include losing between 7% and 10% of your current weight and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five to seven days a week. In situations where there are already increased blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol abnormalities, medical treatment will also have to be included. If you are able to stick to the prescribed lifestyle changes, you will see a reduction in dosages of medication required and even be able to stop treatment if successful.
A healthy lifestyle is a life-long commitment. Successfully controlling metabolic syndrome requires long-term effort and teamwork with your health care providers.
Preventing metabolic syndrome is very possible.
Maintaining a healthy waist circumference, healthy blood pressure levels, and healthy cholesterol levels reduce your risk. In particular, you should eat a healthy diet that is very low in carbohydrates and sugars. You should also get moving. Regular physical activity will reduce your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels.
The key is to try to maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your healthcare providers before beginning an exercise programme or radically changing your diet.
Prevention of metabolic syndrome will also require that you have regular physical exams, get your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol checked, measure your waist circumference, and discuss your eating choices with your practitioner.