Unraveling The Metabolic Syndrome

It could be said that heart disease and diabetes type 2 are conjoined at the hip by this one thing- the metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome can be defined as a cluster of conditions that increase one’s risk for heart disease and diabetes type 2. The cardinal signs involved include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels (insulin resistance), excess belly, high triglyceride levels and low levels of good cholesterol, or HDL. If you have at least three of them – you may already have the condition.

If you have any of the listed symptoms you should not panic as this is not a sure sign that you will develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes. However, it means that you should take caution because you are at a higher risk for developing either or both the diseases. Having more risk factors puts you at a greater risk as well.

Approximately 47 million Americans suffer from metabolic syndrome, this translates to a staggering 0ne in every six people. There is a genetic link to this syndrome which mostly affects African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. The risks of developing metabolic syndrome increases as you age. Fortunately, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent serious health problems for those at risk of developing the disease.

What Are The Symptoms Of Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that indicate an underlying disease process. Most of these conditions have to be lab-tested making it hard to point out the symptoms of the syndrome. Generally, a large or increasing waist circumference together with one or two other lab-tested signs may be an indication of the syndrome. Lab-tested signs include elevated triglycerides, high blood sugar or high blood pressure.

What Are The Causes Of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is closely linked to a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating. A sedentary lifestyle includes sitting or lying down for long hours without expending much energy. When this is combined with unhealthy diets such as eating processed foods packed with empty calories chances of developing metabolic syndrome are increased.

Metabolic syndrome is also linked to insulin resistance. When a person has insulin resistance their cells don’t respond normally to insulin which is the hormone that removes sugar from the blood and stores it in cells. This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels.

Abdominal obesity is another risk factor for metabolic syndrome. This means having extra fat around the waist. Lastly, hormonal imbalance may also contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome. Hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome are related to the syndrome.

Age and ethnicity are other risk factors. Risk increases with age. Certain ethnicities such as Hispanics in the US are at greater risk for metabolic syndrome.

What Are The Complications Of Metabolic Syndrome?

Having metabolic syndrome can predispose you to the risk of developing:

  • Type 2 diabetes. This can develop following the progression of insulin resistance.
  • Heart Disease. High levels of bad cholesterol and high blood pressure can lead to atherosclerosis. This can eventually lead to heart disease and increased risk for stroke.

How Is Metabolic Syndrome Diagnosed?

There are a few signs that may point towards metabolic syndrome. They include:

  • Having a large waist circumference measuring at least 89 centimeters for women and 102 centimeters for men.
  • Having high triglyceride above 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
  • Low “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels below 40 mg/dL in men or below 50 mg/dL in women.
  • Having increased blood pressure of 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher.
  • Having high blood sugar of 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or higher.

How Can You Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is largely a diet and lifestyle enhanced condition. Making the following lifestyle changes can prevent conditions that cause metabolic syndrome:

Regular exercise

Health experts recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes each day. This may include brisk walking, aerobics, or slow jogging. If you are at high risk for heart disease you will need to consult with your physician before you can engage in strenuous physical activity.

Lose Weight

If you have extra weight around the mid-section it may be wise to shed it off. You can achieve this through targeted weight lifting and controlling your calorie intake. Losing 7 to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce insulin resistance and blood pressure and also decrease your risk of diabetes. Avoid embarking on weight loss crush programs as you are bound to rebound and gain extra weight than you had previously. Instead, work on a program that allows you to lose weight gradually and sustainably.

Adopt a healthy diet plan

A healthy heart diet should comprise of:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Unsaturated fats
  • Whole grains rich in fiber
  • White meat

You should avoid or limit your intake of the following:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Processed foods
  • Red meat
  • Excess alcohol
  • Excess salt
  • Trans fats and saturated fats

Reducing or manage stress

Stress is a big contributor to unhealthy lifestyle patterns. If you are at high risk for developing metabolic syndrome regular distressing may be necessary for you. Exercises such as meditation and yoga can be good ways to help you relax. Listening to classical music, taking up a hobby or traveling for leisure can also be of help. Ultimately, you will need to commit to a healthy lifestyle which will not only lower your risk for metabolic syndrome but also reduce your risk for other chronic conditions such as cancer and osteoporosis.


1.   Medscape (2019): Metabolic Syndrome: A Growing Clinical Challenge: Epidemiology. Retrieved from https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/484166_2

2.   Heart.org: What is Metabolic Syndrome? Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/metabolic-syndrome

3.   WebMD: What is Metabolic Syndrome? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/heart/metabolic-syndrome/metabolic-syndrome-what-is-it#23

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