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Metabolic Syndrome: Causes & Prevention


An understanding of the risk factors for heart disease is essential in caring for your heart health and overall wellness. It is also important to be aware of how these factors may work together. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that can significantly elevate your risk for cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and stroke. About 1 in 3 adults receive a metabolic syndrome diagnosis in the U.S1. While there are serious health consequences to metabolic syndrome, you can often reduce your risk and prevent it by living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome includes the following five risk factors. It is diagnosed when you have at least three of these conditions. The risk for a serious cardiovascular issue increases with each of these present.

  • Large waistline (apple shape body)
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • High blood triglycerides
  • Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol

What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?

A variety of factors can result in metabolic syndrome. The four main causes include:

  • Obesity / Overweight: Excessive fat in and around the stomach is strongly associated with the diagnosis. Being overweight can affect the way your body controls blood sugar and cholesterol levels. In Hawai’i obesity is at epidemic rates. Nearly 60 percent are overweight or obese.2
  • Insulin Resistance: This is when the body can’t process insulin, a hormone that helps your body turn food into energy. Cells in your muscles, fat and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t easily take up glucose from your blood. This affects blood sugar levels.
  • Gender, Race & Ethnicity: Women have a higher risk than men among older adults3. Certain race and ethnic groups in Hawai‘i are affected more than others. For example, Filipinos have higher rates of blood pressure and Japanese have significantly higher rates of both blood pressure and cholesterol levels.4
  • Age: The risk increases as you get older.

What Prevents Metabolic Syndrome?

A heart-healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit processed foods, sugar, and sodium. Make time to get active. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. Schedule your routine healthcare appointments so you can track your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.


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