Several risk factors are associated with metabolic syndrome and some of these are described below.
Several studies have suggested that long-term or chronic stress can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome developing. Prolonged stress is thought to disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and cause a hormonal imbalance. Disruption of this axis can increase the level of cortisol in the body, which, in turn raises the level of glucose and therefore insulin. The can cause increases in visceral adiposity and blood pressure, as well as dyslipidemia and insulin resistance. This disruption of the HPA axis may account for why abdominal obesity is associated with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke.
Overweight and obesity
Central obesity is a major feature of metabolic syndrome, with a strong association existing between increasing waist circumference and risk for the syndrome. However, individuals who are normal weight can still develop insulin resistance and be at an increased likelihood of developing the syndrome. Some people have a genetic tendency to develop insulin resistance and those people are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome if they fail to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Central obesity is defined as a waist circumference of 102 cm (40 inches) or more in males and 88 cm (36 inches) or more in females.
Lack of exercise and physical activity
Those with a sedentary lifestyle who do not engage in regular physical exercise are at particular risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Many features of the syndrome are associated with a sedentary lifestyle such as increased central adiposity, a low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level and a tendency to have high blood pressure, hypergylcemia and hypertriglyceridemia. Research has shown that people who watch TV or use their computers for more than fours per day are at twice the risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those who engage in these activities for less than one hour a day.
Excess alcohol consumption is associated with obesity, fatty liver disease and high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Increased inflammatory markers
Studies have indicated that several systemic inflammation markers are often increased in people with metabolic syndrome including C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, fibrinogen and tumor necrosis factor-alpha.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc