Metabolic syndrome is a common condition in which a person has a “cluster” of risk factors that significantly increases their risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It is felt to be closely linked to insulin resistance, which is when your body’s cells do not respond well to a hormone called insulin; therefore an excess amount of sugar (glucose) remains in the bloodstream.
Usually, there are no immediate physical symptoms; the syndrome is associated with medical problems that develop over time. If you are unsure if you have metabolic syndrome, see your health care provider.
If you have three or more of the following risk factors, you have metabolic syndrome:
- Obesity - a waist measurement greater than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men (measured across the belly)
- High blood pressure - blood pressure greater than 130/86 mmHg or higher
- Elevated blood sugar - a fasting blood sugar level greater than 110
- Elevated triglycerides - triglycerides greater than 150
- Low HDL (good cholesterol) - HDL less than 50 for women or 40 for men
How it is Diagnosed:
Metabolic syndrome is preventable! Lifestyle changes are very effective in preventing, treating and reversing metabolic syndrome. It requires long-term management and regular monitoring of each of the risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol or lipid profile, blood sugar and weight).
Here are some of the ways you can reduce your risk:
- Exercise - Get moving. Increased activity can improve your insulin levels and reduces your risk of diabetes, helps lower your blood pressure, decreases LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- Eat a heart healthy diet - maintain a diet that keeps carbohydrates to no more than 50 percent of total calories. Eat foods defined as complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread (instead of white), brown rice (instead of white), and carbohydrates that are unrefined (instead of re fined; for example cookies, crackers). Increase your fiber consumption by eating legumes (for example, beans), whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Reduce your intake of red meats and poultry.
- Lose weight - moderate weight loss, in the range of 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight, can help restore your body’s ability to recognize insulin and greatly reduce the chance that the syndrome will evolve into a more serious illness.
- Medications - take medications prescribed by your healthcare provider. Many times you will need a combination of cholesterol medications; usually a “statin” plus niacin or a “fibrate” to help improve triglycerides and HDL.
- Limit alcohol intake - consume no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks for men.
If I have metabolic syndrome, what health problems might develop?
Consistently high levels of insulin and glucose are linked to many harmful changes to the body, including:
- Damage to the lining of coronary and other arteries
- Changes in the kidney’s ability to remove salt, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke
- An increased risk of blood clot formation, which can block arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes