There is a silent killer on the loose, and it has already claimed thousands of lives and will take more if we don’t protect ourselves. This silent killer’s weapon of choice is expanding waist lines and metabolic syndrome. Researchers across America are seeing an alarming trend: having “junk in the trunk” or “love handles” can be fatal.
In an article published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, the authors describe how metabolic syndrome—a cluster of health conditions—affect nearly one in every three adults in America and about 40 percent of adults aged 40 or older. These health conditions, when seen together in a single patient, can spell increased risk for serious disease and even an early death.
“The major factor accelerating the pathway to metabolic syndrome is overweight and obesity,” said Charles H. Hennekens, senior author of the paper. “Obesity is overtaking smoking as the leading avoidable cause of premature death in the U.S. and worldwide.”
Metabolic syndrome is the name given to a group of risk factors that raises the can cause many life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Metabolic is a term used to describe the normal processes that occur within the body in order for it to function, but what happens in this syndrome is that these biochemical processes cease to regulate themselves properly, and this is due to risk factors that we don’t do enough to prevent in our current lifestyles. These risk factors include:
- Large waistlines: Abdominal obesity or excess stomach fat has been seen to contribute more to the risk for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as in the hips.
- High triglyceride levels: A type of fat (lipid) found in the bloodstream.
- Low HDL cholesterol: A form of good cholesterol aiding in the removal of bad cholesterol from the arteries. Low levels increase your risk for heart disease.
- High blood pressure: Also called hypertension—when the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps remains increased for a long period of time, it can damage the heart, leading to plaque formation.
- High fasting blood sugar: An early sign of diabetes development.
People who have metabolic syndrome usually do not have any symptoms at all alongside the risk factors present, but they do have an increased risk of experiencing a coronary event in the next 10 years, based on the Framingham Risk Score. This syndrome is vastly underdiagnosed and undertreated.
For optimum health, men should have a waistline below than 40 inches, and it should be less than 35 inches for women, according to the authors. Of the risk factors mentioned, excess abdominal fat can lead to insulin resistance as well as fat deposition in other sites such as the muscle and liver. This further increases the risk of insulin resistance and dyslipidemia (abnormal amount of fats in the blood), which contribute significantly to the risk of heart disease.
“Visceral fat and its clinically more easily measured correlate of waist circumference are gaining increasing attention as strong predictors of metabolic syndrome even if you remove body mass index from the equation,” said Dawn H. Sherling, M.D., first author of the paper. “There are patients who have a normal body mass index yet are at high risk. These patients represent an important population for clinicians to screen for metabolic syndrome.”
The authors of the paper go on to express their concern for the rest of the world, as the “American diet and lifestyle” is resulting in cardiovascular disease becoming a leading killer worldwide.
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