Learn what metabolic syndrome is and how you can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
You may already know that being overweight can raise your risk for many diseases. But having a lot of weight around your middle may also be a sign that you have a collection of risk factors known as the metabolic syndrome.
What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome – or insulin resistance syndrome – is a group of health conditions that together puts you at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes. These risk factors are closely linked to overweight and obesity. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you must have three or more of the following risk factors:
- Large waistline. Equal or greater than 40 inches for men and equal or greater than 35 inches for women. Extra fat around the stomach is more of a risk factor for heart disease than fat anywhere else in the body.
- High level of triglycerides. Equal or greater than 150 mg/dL. Triglycerides are a type of cholesterol found in your blood.>
- Low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women. HDL is the good kind of cholesterol. Too little HDL in your blood raises your chance for developing heart disease.
- High blood pressure. Equal or greater than 130/85 mm Hg. High blood pressure raises your risk for heart disease.
- High fasting blood sugar levels. Equal or greater than 100 mg/dL. High blood sugar is a sign of diabetes.
The more of these risk factors you have, the higher your chance is to develop heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The two biggest risk factors for metabolic syndrome are a large waistline and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when the body cannot use insulin properly. Insulin resistance is found in people who have type 2 diabetes. Eighty-five percent of people who have type 2 diabetes also have the metabolic syndrome.
What are the signs and symptoms?
A large waistline is the only visible sign that you could be at risk for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome and most of its risk factors have no symptoms. If you have high blood sugar levels, you may have the following symptoms:
- Extreme thirst
- Increased urination
- Blurry vision
See your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.
What is the treatment for metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is treated through lifestyle changes and sometimes by medication. Changes to lifestyle can reduce risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. If you already have heart disease or diabetes, lifestyle changes can cut your risk of having complications from these conditions. Lifestyle changes include:
- Lose weight (if you are overweight). Losing even a few pounds – 7 percent to 10 percent of your body weight – helps lower your health risks.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt.
- Exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor before you start any exercise program. Then with your doctor’s OK, start slowly and gradually increase activity to 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Stop smoking. Ask your doctor about programs that can help you quit.
In addition to changes in your lifestyle, your doctor may prescribe you a medicine to help lower:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
Some people may also be instructed to take daily aspirin therapy to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s not for everyone though, so check with your doctor. Ask your doctor for more information about what you can do to manage the risk factors of the metabolic syndrome.