metabolic syndrome

What is metabolic syndrome?

December 3, 2018

For most men and women, having a large waist circumference is just a beauty concern. However, this condition is more than beauty concern for others as this may be a health issue that can lead to the development of a serious disease.

Metabolic syndrome is known by other names such as Syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, and dysmetabolic syndrome. It is a cluster of conditions that occur together. The conditions include an increase of blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol, which include high triglyceride levels and low levels of good cholesterol (or HDL). More specific measurements of the conditions are below.

  • Systolic blood pressure (top number) of 130 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater, or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 85 mm Hg or greater.
  • Fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater.
  • Abdominal obesity which waist circumference is greater than 40 inches in men, and greater than 35 inches in women.
  • A triglyceride level of 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or greater.
  • HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women.

Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean that you have metabolic syndrome. However, having one will increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes; while having three or more will result in a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome and it will increase your risk of health complications.

An aggressive lifestyle approach can delay or prevent the development of serious health problems if a person has metabolic syndrome.

Currently, twenty-three percent of adults have metabolic syndrome according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Causes and Symptoms

Metabolic syndrome is linked to overweight, inactivity, and obesity. It is also linked to a condition called insulin resistance.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps glucose (sugar) enter the cells to be used as fuel. The digestive system normally breaks down the foods into glucose, but in people with insulin resistance, the cells in the body do not respond normally to insulin and glucose can’t enter the cells as easily. Thus glucose levels in the blood rise in spite of the body’s attempt to control the glucose by churning out more and more insulin.

Note that the two most important risk factors (i.e. obesity and insulin resistance) are defined by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

There are no symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome aside from having a visible large waist circumference. High blood sugar plus increased thirst and urination, fatigue, and blurred vision might be a sign and symptom of diabetes.

Moreover, the risk factor of having metabolic syndrome includes age (affecting more than 40% of people in their 60s and 70s), race or family history, obesity, diabetes especially during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, not getting enough exercise, and polycystic ovary syndrome which is often diagnosed in women.

Having metabolic syndrome can increase the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Not changing the lifestyle of a patient diagnosed with metabolic syndrome can lead to insulin resistance. This may develop into diabetes as glucose levels will continue to increase. If diabetes develops, this may lead to a higher risk for additional health complications which includes eye damage (retinopathy), nerve damage (neuropathy), kidney disease, and amputation of limbs.

In cardiovascular disease case, you learned earlier that metabolic syndrome includes having abnormal cholesterol and high blood pressure. The two mentioned conditions can contribute to the build-up of plaques in the arteries. The plagues can narrow and harden the arteries, leading to a heart attack or stroke.


To diagnose metabolic syndrome, doctors need to perform several different tests. The result will be used to look for three or more signs of the disorder and the noted three or more abnormalities of these tests will indicate the presence of metabolic syndrome.

The doctor may check one or more of the following: cholesterol levels, blood pressure, waist circumference, fasting glucose level, and fasting blood triglycerides

Prevention and treatments

The key in preventing to have the syndrome is to maintain a healthy weight which may include regular physical activities that will reduce blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol level. Also, eating a healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish may assist in maintaining the proper weight.

Furthermore, maintaining a healthy waist circumference reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. The effort to achieve a healthy waist circumference can be aided by exercising and weight loss. It can also decrease insulin resistance.

Doctors can measure the blood pressure and complete blood work that may indicate the early development of metabolic syndrome. In other words, prevention may also achieve by having a regular physical examination with your doctor.

People who take their doctors’ advice, exercise, eat right, quit smoking, and lose weight will reduce their chances of developing serious health problems. But though health complications will reduce by managing the symptoms, long-term risk of cardiovascular disease is still present in most people with this condition.

So, let’s say that metabolic syndrome still persists in a patient, and this will require treatment. The goal of treating this condition is to reduce the risk of developing further health complications that we’ve mentioned earlier.

Doctors will highly recommend a lifestyle change that may include losing between 7 and 10 percent of your current weight and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five to seven days a week. Doctors may also suggest quitting smoke and they may prescribe medications to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or blood sugar, as well as low-dose aspirin to help reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.