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Metabolic Syndrome and Risk of Diabetes

written by: danxtptrnrth • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/20/2011

Learn more about how metabolic syndrome and risk of diabetes are interrelated. Discover what the two have in common and what separates them.

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    About Metabolic Syndrome

    Metabolic syndrome is a combination of disease risk factors which collectively increase a patient's risk of developing serious medical conditions. Once known as syndrome X, metabolic syndrome is a good predictor of a patient developing cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. It is often associated with the negative health repercussions of overweight and obesity.

    Several risk factors characterize metabolic syndrome. They include, but are not limited to, excessive adipose tissue, blood fat disorders like dyslipidemia, high blood pressure (hypertension) and the development of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs due to chronic high circulating blood glucose levels (hyperinsulinism) and high levels of circulating insulin (hyperinsulinemia).

    Increased levels of fibrinogen, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) and C-reactive protein (CRP) in the bloodstream may also indicate the possibility of metabolic syndrome. Fibrinogen helps form blood clots when trauma occurs, but also gets stuck in atherosclerotic plaques, which block arteries. The biologic pathway that breaks down blood clots is inhibited by PAI-1; this increases the likelihood of thrombosis, or blood clot formation within blood vessels. Increased levels of CRP are abnormal because it should only rise in response to inflammation in the body.

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    Parallels

    Indications of metabolic syndrome are not exact precursors of diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) or diabetes, however, there is a strong correlation between metabolic syndrome and risk of diabetes or CVD. The risk factors that are associated with metabolic syndrome parallel those of type 2 diabetes. Chronic hyperglycemia, chronic hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are all precursors of type 2 diabetes. Also, risk factors such as excessive weight, inactivity and genetic factors increase a patient's susceptibility to developing the pre-conditions of diseases like CVD and diabetes.

    It is important to remember that the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome are measured prior to onset of disease. Type 2 diabetes is a complication that may occur after metabolic syndrome has been sustained over time; the length of time varies from patient to patient. Positive changes of the metabolic syndrome's risk factors can decrease the likelihood of becoming diabetes or another disease affecting the cardiovascular system.

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    Risks

    Metabolic syndrome and diabetes are not ostensibly linked. A statistically high correlation between the two exists, but one is in no way absolutely indicative of the other. Also, if a patient displays a few of the risk factors of metabolic syndrome, his or her risk of developing diabetes is reduced. The clustering of all risk factors show the highest probability of disease progression.

    The important thing to remember about the risk factors of metabolic syndrome is that, aside from genetics, most are based upon the way patients life their life. Lifestyle changes can slow and, sometimes, reverse the possibility of developing disease. Patients can begin eating a well-balanced diet, specifically monitoring simple carbohydrate and saturated fat intake. Regular exercise programs help patients lose weight and improve cardiovascular health. Limiting alcohol intake and smoking cessation can have far-reaching implications towards decreasing the risk factors of type 2 diabetes.