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Metabolic Syndrome Causes and Risk Factors

Metabolic Syndrome Causes and Risk Factors
Causes and Risk Factors

What causes metabolic syndrome?
Not all doctors agree on the cause of metabolic syndrome. As the name suggests, metabolic syndrome is tied to your body's metabolism. However, the root cause of most cases of metabolic syndrome can be traced back to poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.

Research into the complex underlying process of metabolic syndrome is ongoing. Most researchers believe that metabolic syndrome probably involves a variety of genetic and environmental factors. For example, some cases of metabolic syndrome occur in people already diagnosed with hypertension or with poorly controlled diabetes; a few are thought to be linked to genetic factors. Researchers also think some people inherit the tendency from their parents. But being overweight and inactive are major contributors.

Some doctors hypothesize that metabolic syndrome might be caused by insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced to help the body turn sugar from food into energy. People who are insulin resistant experience cells that don't respond normally to insulin, so that sugar can't enter the cells as easily. This results in too much sugar in the blood, setting the stage for disease. Increased insulin raises triglyceride level and other blood fat levels. It also interferes with how your kidneys work, leading to higher blood pressure. These combined effects of insulin resistance put you at risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions.

  • diabetes
  • diet
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • insulin resistance
  • overweight
  • sedentary lifestyle

Risk factors
Risk factors are behaviors or conditions that increase a person’s chance of getting a disease. The risk factors for metabolic syndrome are associated with obesity, insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction, and possibly with cellular membrane disruption. Additionally, the following factors may increase chances for developing metabolic syndrome:

Age - The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age, affecting less than 10 percent of people in their 20s and 40 percent of people in their 60s.

Alcohol consumption If you have a history of heavy drinking (more than one drink a day for women or two for men), you are at greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Diet – People who eat a high-fat diet are at increased risk of being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

Ethnicity - Hispanics and Asians seem to be at greater risk of metabolic syndrome than other ethnicities.

Medical history
- You're more likely to have metabolic syndrome if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or a history of diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Other groups that are at increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome include:

  • people with a sibling or parent with diabetes
  • people with a personal history of diabetes
  • women with a personal history of polycystic ovarian syndrome (a tendency to develop cysts on the ovaries)

Obesity - People with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 are at greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Abdominal obesity — having an apple shape rather than a pear shape – also increases risk of metabolic syndrome.

Other diseases – People diagnosed with conditions related to hormones or metabolism (high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or polycystic ovary syndrome) also at increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Researchers have also identified an association between childhood metabolic syndrome and adult cardiovascular disease decades later.

Post menopausal status – During post menopause, the production of estrogens decreases, which have a protective effect in women from developing metabolic syndrome. In this way, the storage of estrogen in fat tissue is not high enough to prevent the appearance of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Sedentary lifestyle

Smoking - Smoking causes constriction of the blood vessels which can lead to an increase in blood pressure. If blood pressure is high for long periods of time, the lining of the blood vessels becomes damaged so that fats build up, leading to atherosclerosis. This process is sped up if people experience additional medical conditions such as diabetes.


Being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome is serious. In the future, metabolic syndrome may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease. But how do you know if you have the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, or not? And when should you seek medical help? Continue reading the next section for more information on symptoms of metabolic syndrome here.

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Tags: metabolic syndrome, High Blood Pressure, being overweight, Body Mass Index, Atherosclerosis, heavy drinking, Heart Disease, hypertension, polycystic, appearance, metabolism, behaviors, Menopause, Pregnancy, childhood, estrogen, Diseases, drinking, Diabetes, symptoms
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