Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

By Philip A. Ades, M.D., EatingWell Editors, "The Metabolic Syndrome," EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook (2008)

What you need to know about obesity and heart disease risk.

Rates of metabolic syndrome have been climbing rapidly, driven by the obesity epidemic. In 2002, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in all American adults was 24 percent, but there was a powerful effect of age. Men and women in their sixties and seventies had a nearly 45 percent rate of metabolic syndrome. So, not only is 66 percent of the U.S. population overweight, but by the age of 60, almost half will likely have a "toxic" form of obesity that is very closely linked with diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Still, if you or someone you know has metabolic syndrome, there is no reason to give up. Bad outcomes in individuals with metabolic syndrome or "prediabetes" can be prevented. In a three-year study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health in adults with obesity and prediabetes, with a simple program of exercise (30 minutes, 5 days a week) and weight loss (5 to 7 percent or roughly 10 to 15 pounds), participants' likelihood of developing diabetes dropped 58 percent over the course of the study. Whereas 29 percent of participants who did not exercise or lose weight developed diabetes over the three years, only 14 percent of those in the exercise group did.

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