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Carrington College Blog

Metabolic syndrome increasingly common

May 19, 2015

Metabolic syndrome and its effects have long worried health professionals and medical assistants alike. New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that the conditions attached to metabolic syndrome now affect one-third of adults in the United States.1

Heart disease and diabetes can be a result
To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome a patient must have at least three of five risk factors: abdominal obesity, a low level of “good” HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, increased blood sugar and a high amount of triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in the blood.2 With any combination of these symptoms, a person can be considered a sufferer of metabolic syndrome, therefore increasing their chance of heart disease and/or diabetes.

In addition, patients with pre-diagnosed insulin resistance have a greater chance of metabolic syndrome, according to the American Heart Association.3 This disorder involves a genetic predisposition where one’s body can’t use insulin sufficiently.

The study, conducted by Dr. Robert Wong, clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues discovered that obesity is a major factor in those dealing with metabolic syndrome.1 While weight-related issues play a large part in the occurrence of this syndrome, so does age.

Age, race and gender play a role
Using health data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2003-2012, researchers found that almost half of people aged 60 or older have metabolic syndrome.1 On the other hand, only 18 percent of people aged 20-39 have the condition.1

While the evidence shows a dramatic difference, the reason for the increase is understandably common. With increasing age, adults become more resistant to insulin, less active and heavier.1 With those three things in mind, one can see how a person could easily be affected by the risk factors mentioned earlier.

Others are predisposed to metabolic syndrome due to their race and gender. According to Dr. Wong’s study, 39 percent of the Hispanic population has metabolic syndrome, making it the ethnicity with the highest rate of the condition, followed by Caucasians (37.4 percent) and African-Americans (35.5 percent).4 Lastly, according to the AHA, men are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than women.3 While it may be disconcerting to know 35 percent of U.S. adults suffer from this condition2, there are steps people can take to not only reduce their risk, but to reverse metabolic syndrome.

You can prevent it
Metabolic syndrome can be avoided and treated by changing lifestyle behaviors. Weight reduction, increased physical activity and a heart-healthy diet can also reduce the risk of not only metabolic syndrome, but long-term problems, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke.3

Although these individual steps can greatly decrease metabolic syndrome for those who already suffer from it, Dr. Mark Creager, president of the AHA, recommends larger societal changes to curb the development of the condition, including less access to sugary drinks in schools, as well as the creation of more places where people can safely exercise.1

Health care providers, including medical assistants, can help decrease a patient’s potential for metabolic syndrome and other cardiovascular diseases by closely monitoring blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as assisting with a lifestyle plan. By keeping dangerous risk factors under control, patients can reduce and treat metabolic syndrome.

1“Metabolic syndrome increasingly common: What is it, and why worry?” Dennis Thompson, CBS News, May 20, 2015.

2“1 in 3 Adults Have Potentially Dangerous Medical Condition” Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Live Science, May 19, 2015.

3“Metabolic Syndrome” American Heart Association, May 14, 2015.

4“What Is Metabolic Syndrome? Over A Third Of Americans At Risk Of Obesity-Related Health Problems” Avaneesh Pandey, International Business Times, May 20, 2015.

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