Metabolic syndrome X

A road sign pointing toward heart disease and diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome X (MSX) is the name for a combination of medical conditions (increased abdominal body fat, elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels) that increase your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Doctors confirm a diagnosis of MSX through blood tests. This condition affects 34% of adults in the US, including over 40% of people over age 50 (1).

For a person who is overweight and out of shape, think of MSX as a road sign on the way toward serious chronic disease. "Diabetes, 5 miles ahead...Heart disease 15 miles". Adults are 5-6 times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome if they are overweight, and over 20 times more likely if they are obese.

If metabolic syndrome X were a road sign, it should be a giant billboard stretched across the freeway. The reason? As one example, diabetes has a dire set of complications including stroke, blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, skin disorders, and lower limb amputations. The CDC states that people with diabetes have 2 times the death risk of non-diabetics who are the same age (2).

In addition, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US, taking one life every 37 seconds, and accounting for more than 1/3 of all deaths each year. We could add 7 years to the average life span just by eliminating cardiovascular disease (3).

Turning around at the road sign: lifestyle changes to reverse the condition.

If you have any of the above signs, please see your doctor and follow his recommendations. That being said, Metabolic syndrome X is connected both to your waistline and the amount of exercise and physical activity that you do. The health benefits of 2.5 to 3 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise per week are well documented (4). If you maintain good physical fitness with regular exercise, studies show that you can prevent this condition (5).

On the other hand, excessive TV watching and computer use significantly increase the risk of developing MSX. Researchers estimate that 30% of new obesity cases and 43% of new diabetes cases can be prevented through watching less than 10 hours of TV / week and walking briskly 30 minutes per day (6).


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