Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome defines a combination of disorders. It is considered a cluster of risk factors including, but not limited to:

  • High blood pressure (which can lead to stroke)
  • High blood sugar and insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes)
  • High cholesterol (which can contribute to heart disease and stroke)
  • Abdominal fat, the visceral fat that collects around the abdomen and other key places in the body (which can increase risk of other mentioned conditions above)
  • Other risk factors can include:
  • Obesity — especially abdominal obesity
  • Unhealthy lifestyle
  • Hormonal imbalance

Metabolic syndrome can take its toll on health. People with metabolic syndrome are 3.5 times more likely to die of a heart-related ailment and 5 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The good news is that you can overcome this syndrome.

A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is an urgent sign that your metabolic health—the way the body processes and uses energy and nutrients from the food we eat—is dysfunctional, and without changes, health risks increase. For healthcare professionals, a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome prompts a search for additional risk factors and triggering specific treatment protocols; for patients, a diagnosis may be a powerful motivator to make necessary lifestyle shifts to lower their risk of disease.

Metabolic syndrome may be diagnosed if you have 3 or more of the following:

  • Being very overweight or having too much fat around your waist
  • High triglyceride levels (fat in the blood) and low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) in your blood, which can lead to atherosclerosis which is where arteries become clogged with fatty substances such as cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure that’s consistently 140/90mmHg or higher
  • An inability to control blood sugar levels (insulin resistance)

You can prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome by making lifestyle changes, including:

  • Losing weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a health and balanced diet to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels under control
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce alcohol intake

If necessary, a healthcare professional may prescribe medicine to help control your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Treatment of Metabolic syndrome

The immediate goal is to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Treatments include:

Medication: Controlling each underlying condition with prescription medication is the first line of defence to lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.

Lifestyle changes: Medications control the symptoms, but they don’t address the underlying cause of disease. The lifestyle behaviours that treat metabolic syndrome are the same as the prevention tactics listed above. Diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep are all key.

Health monitoring: Your healthcare provider may recommend that you also see an endocrinologist, a cardiologist, or a doctor who specialises in treating diabetes. They will set up a schedule of appointments to track your condition. Between appointments, you can self-monitor by keeping tabs on your weight and waist circumference, using a blood glucose monitor, and checking your blood pressure.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.