Because the population of the U.S. is aging, and because metabolic syndrome is more likely the older you are, the American Heart Association (AHA) has estimated that metabolic syndrome soon will become the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease, ahead of cigarette smoking. Experts also think that increasing rates of obesity are related to the increasing rates of metabolic syndrome.
The primary problem in metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance. In the body's attempt to compensate for insulin resistance, extra insulin is produced, leading to elevated insulin levels. The elevated insulin levels can lead, directly or indirectly, to the characteristic metabolic abnormalities seen in these patients. Frequently, the insulin resistance will progress to overt type 2 diabetes, which further increases the risk of cardiovascular complications.
The approximate prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) is 50%, with a prevalence of 37% in patients with premature coronary artery disease (age 45), particularly in women. With appropriate cardiac rehabilitation and changes in lifestyle (e.g., nutrition, physical activity, weight reduction, and, in some cases, drugs), the prevalence of the syndrome can be reduced.
For this reason, hypertension is known as the "silent killer," quietly increasing the risk of developing stroke, heart disease, heart attack, kidney damage, and blindness. The greater the blood pressure for extended periods, the greater the potential for damage. That is why it is important for people to have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis.
It is common for there to be a development of visceral fat, after which the adipocytes (fat cells) of the visceral fat increase plasma levels of TNF-α and alter levels of a number of other substances (e.g., adiponectin, resistin, and PAI-1). TNF-α has been shown not only to cause the production of inflammatory cytokines, but also possibly to trigger cell signaling by interaction with a TNF-α receptor that may lead to insulin resistance. An experiment with rats fed a diet with 33% sucrose has been proposed as a model for the development of metabolic syndrome. The sucrose first elevated blood levels of triglycerides, which induced visceral fat and ultimately resulted in insulin resistance. The progression from visceral fat to increased TNF-α to insulin resistance has some parallels to human development of metabolic syndrome. The increase in adipose tissue also increases the number of immune cells present within, which play a role in inflammation. Chronic inflammation contributes to an increased risk of hypertension, atherosclerosis and diabetes.
The pain of diabetic nerve damage may respond to traditional treatments with certain medications such as gabapentin (Neurontin), phenytoin (Dilantin), and carbamazepine (Tegretol) that are traditionally used in the treatment of seizure disorders. Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep) and desipramine (Norpraminine) are medications that are traditionally used for depression. While many of these medications are not indicated specifically for the treatment of diabetes related nerve pain, they are used by physicians commonly.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic risk factors that come together in a single individual. These metabolic factors include insulin resistance, hypertension (high blood pressure), cholesterol abnormalities, and an increased risk for blood clotting. Affected individuals are most often overweight or obese. An association between certain metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease has been known since the 1940s.