What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for heart disease, type 2 (adult onset) diabetes and stroke.  This condition is also known as Syndrome X and Insulin resistance syndrome.

In the United States, Metabolic syndrome is occurring more and more frequently.  Research studies have not clearly indicated the cause(s).  However, all of its risk factors are related to obesity.

Metabolic syndrome is associated with many conditions and risk factors. The two most important risk factors are:

• Additional weight around the center of the body. The body may be described as “apple-shaped.”
• Insulin resistance, a condition where the body cannot use insulin effectively. Insulin is the critical hormone involved with controlling the body’s sugar level.

Insulin helps facilitate your cells to absorb sugar, in the form of glucose, through the cell membrane.  If you are insulin resistant, your body does not appropriately respond to insulin, and sugar fails to get into your cells. In response to this failure, your body produces more and more insulin. When our blood glucose and insulin levels increase, fat levels (including triglycerides) occurs.

People with metabolic syndrome have an increased long-term risk for developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

• Atherosclerosis
• Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
• Diabetes
• Stroke
• Kidney disease
• Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
• Peripheral artery disease

According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, metabolic syndrome is present if you have three or more of the following signs:
• Blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg
• Fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL
• Large waist circumference (length around the waist):
  o Men – 40 inches or more
  o Women – 35 inches or more
• Low HDL cholesterol:
  o Men – under 40 mg/dL
  o Women – under 50 mg/dL
• Triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL

Most important health recommendations are:
• Reduce your weight. The initial goal is to lose between 7 and 10% of your current weight. Get 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, 5 – 7 days per week.
• Reduce your cholesterol using diet, weight loss, exercise.
• Decrease your blood pressure using weight loss, exercise, and medications, if needed.

Is there a relationship between psychological distress and Metabolic Syndrome?

To examine prospectively the association of psychological distress with the development of the metabolic syndrome and the potential influence of demographic characteristics, health behaviors, and inflammation in this association.

A total of 466  people, 281 women and 185 men between the age of 25 and 56 years, and free of the Metabolic syndrome at the beginning of the study,  from 1997 to 1998 and again from 2004 to 2005. 

The average observation time was almost 6.5 years.  A variety of clinical, biochemical, and behavioral factors were measured at baseline, including assessment of psychological distress using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire. Using the National Cholesterol Education Program  criteria the development of Metabolic Syndrome was measured at follow-up. 

The study found that the participants with high levels of psychological distress at the beginning of the study were more than twice as likely to develop Metabolic Syndrome than those with low psychological distress, even when adjustments were made for  age, gender, and demographic  differences; 2) health behaviors (smoking, alcohol use, and leisure time physical activity); and 3) C-reactive protein in the analysis diminished the odds of developing Metabolic syndrome  in the distressed group however, the association remained statistically significant.

The researchers determined that psychological distress at the beginning of this study significantly increased the risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome during follow-up. This association remained robust after adjusting for age, gender, demographic variables, baseline health behaviors, and C-reactive protein. These prospective findings are evidence of a significant association between psychological distress and the development of Metabolic Syndrome.