What Is 'Metabolic Syndrome,' How Is It Related To Diabetes, And How Should It Be Treated?

Question: What Is 'Metabolic Syndrome' And Does It Affect My Risk Of Developing Diabetes?

Answer: Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes that includes obesity, in particular abdominal obesity -- that is, excess weight around the waist -- elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglyceride -- which is one form of blood fat -- and decreased levels of good cholesterol or HDL.

If you have any three of these or even a tendency to them, you have what is called the 'metabolic syndrome.' The significance of this, as I mentioned, is that it increases the risk of heart disease by almost two-fold and the risk of diabetes at least five-fold.

The causes of the metabolic syndrome seem to be very tightly interconnected with the causes of type 2 diabetes, namely to be related to increased body weight, on the one hand, and second, to be related to what is called insulin resistance -- that is, that tendency for the body not to be able to respond normally to its own insulin, which we know is one of the causative factors of type 2 diabetes. So that it's estimated that about 25 percent of the population in the United States have the metabolic syndrome, either because of obesity or because of insulin resistance or both. And the majority of type 2 diabetic subjects have the metabolic syndrome as well.


This is an area of great concern because it suggests that unless we control this set of risk factors, our rates of heart disease and diabetes are simply going to increase again.

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