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A Web of Disorders

Eat too much and you might wind up obese. Eat the wrong things and watch your cholesterol shoot through the roof. As if that's not enough, doctors have found that, taken together, conditions like high blood pressure and obesity are good predictors of illnesses including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

This web of symptoms is called metabolic syndrome. It's not a specific disease so much as a barometer of our general metabolic health and predictor of more deadly diseases The main idea behind metabolic syndrome is that a given problem doesn't exist in a vacuum. Having high blood pressure means that whatever is out of whack may cause or relate to other potential problems.

Obesity, for example, doesn't just mean carrying around a bunch of extra weight. It can result in general inflammation throughout the body and therefore cause high blood pressure and lead to insulin intolerance, which in turn leads to diabetes. Plus, recent research shows that men with at least three factors of metabolic syndrome are nearly twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke as men with none.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. Doctors have found that lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and switching to a healthier diet can alleviate and even erase some conditions. The first step, as always, is to consult your doctor.

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