What is Metabolic Syndrome ?
More and more kids have become afflicted by metabolic syndrome. This is primarily because children nowadays are not overly concerned about what they eat and the result of unhealthy diet and lifestyle when they get older. They don’t realize that the syndrome is the precursor of more serious health problems such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Metabolic syndrome pertains to a group of risk factors and early biomarkers of serious health problems. Early treatment and diagnosis is extremely important so as to prevent the condition from aggravating. Doctors design the treatment plan based on the needs of the individual. Treating kids with the syndrome requires dedication and perseverance, especially from parents who need to set a good example for their kids regarding healthy eating and lifestyle.
Metabolic Syndrome symptoms
Kids suffering from the syndrome are generally overweight and exhibit two of the following anomalies.
- High level of blood sugar
- Low level of HDL cholesterol (or good cholesterol)
- High blood pressure
- High level of triglyceride
It is unclear why the syndrome occurs but medical experts believe that the body’s metabolic processes get disrupted. It is the role of the digestive system to metabolize the food into glucose which the cell uses as fuel for its processes. Insulin acts as a key that will open the cell so glucose can enter. Problem arises when a person’s body is resistant to insulin and glucose cannot enter the cell. This will lead to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream resulting in high blood pressure. As the body tries to regulate the level of glucose in the blood, it releases more insulin and an elevated level of insulin will result in high triglyceride.
Metabolic Syndrome causes
Children will likely develop the syndrome by means of:
- Unhealthy lifestyle
In this modern age, kids are more inclined to play computer and video games instead of play outdoors or be physically active. Because of this inactive lifestyle, it is easy to gain more weight and have high blood sugar level, hypertension and high cholesterol.
- Unhealthy diet
Kids love sweet foods, sweetened beverages and high-fat foods such as those readily available in fast food chains. These foods are generally low in nutrients making the children susceptible to various diseases.
- Environmental factors
Inhaling tobacco smoke is another way for kids to develop metabolic syndrome, especially when it is combined with obesity.
- Genetic predisposition
Some kids are genetically predisposed to the syndrome if a family member or relative suffers from diabetes or some kind of cardiovascular disease. The same is also true if insulin resistance runs in the family.
Statistics showed that the syndrome affects around 2 million children in the U.S. It is more common among obese kids and teenagers. Adolescents have the highest chances of developing the syndrome due to the many hormonal changes brought by puberty which affect the normal levels of lipids, body fat and blood pressure.
The good news is that kids can improve their chances of preventing the syndrome from occurring by making drastic lifestyle changes. These involve eating healthily and regular exercise. Parental example and support is also important to guide the kids to a healthier living.
How common is Metabolic Syndrome in children?
The syndrome is relatively common, affecting around 1 out of 10 kids. It has been found that the age of onset is getting younger, although the syndrome is at its peak during puberty. Studies also showed that diabetes and heart disease run in the families of the affected kids. These kids have been found to live an inactive lifestyle, characterized by lack of exercise and unhealthy diet.
Metabolic Syndrome and related disorders
Kids with the syndrome have:
- High blood pressure
- Too much belly fat and are obese
- High cholesterol level
- Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar
If the syndrome is left untreated, the child may suffer from the dreadful effects of the syndrome upon reaching adulthood. These include:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
This will likely occur if the syndrome is left untreated early on. PCOS affects females and results in fertility problems, abnormal menstruation, acne breakouts and hair overgrowth.
- Impaired kidney function
The syndrome can disrupt normal kidney function by reducing the organ’s ability to get rid of toxins from the blood, which may lead to stroke, hypertension and heart attack.
- Skin disorder
A skin problem known as acanthosis nigricans is characterized by thick and dark skin patches in the groin, armpits, neck, elbows, knees and in between toes and fingers.
This will occur when cholesterol accumulates and ossifies in the arterial wall, blocking optimum blood flow which may lead to stroke and heart attack.
Metabolic Syndrome diagnosis
Diagnosis of the syndrome in children is a bit tricky because they grow quickly and their bodies change rapidly. Aside from the presence of risk factors, diagnostic tests will help confirm the doctor’s diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, and these may include:
- Blood test
- Blood pressure
- Body mass index
- Waist measurement
Metabolic syndrome in kids is treated by making drastic lifestyle changes to lose excess weight, eat healthily and live an active lifestyle.