Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions which includes high blood sugar, high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal levels of cholesterol or triglyceride that occur together, increasing your risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Having just one of these conditions doesn't mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, any of these conditions increase your risk of serious disease. Having more than one of these might increase your risk even more.
If you have metabolic syndrome or any of its components, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems.
Most of the disorders associated with metabolic syndrome have no symptoms, although a large waist circumference is a visible sign. If your blood sugar is very high, apart from the signs and symptoms of diabetes which includes excessive thirst and frequent urination, fatigue, and blurred vision, you may also recognize some of the following symptoms of metabolic syndrome:
- Tiredness - particularly after meals
- ‘Brain fog’, Inability to focus properly
- Acanthosis nigricans - browning (hyperpigmentation) of folds of skin such as on the neck, armpits, groin and between the buttocks Most commonly, patients suffering from metabolic syndrome will exhibit two major symptoms:
- Abdominal obesity
- Resistance to Hormones
- Metabolic syndrome is closely linked to overweight or obesity and inactivity.
- It's also linked to a condition called Hormones resistance. Normally, your digestive system breaks down the foods you eat into sugar (glucose). Hormones is a hormone made by your pancreas that helps sugar enter your cells to be used as fuel.
In people with Hormones resistance, cells don't respond normally to Hormones, and glucose can't enter the cells as easily. As a result, glucose levels in your blood rise despite your body's attempt to control the glucose by churning out more and more Hormones.
The following factors increase your chances of having metabolic syndrome:
- Age. Your risk of metabolic syndrome increases with age.
- Race. For example, in the United States, Mexican-Americans appear to be at the greatest risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
- Obesity. Being overweight, and having excess of fat especially in your abdomen, increases your risk of metabolic syndrome.
- Diabetes. You're more likely to have metabolic syndrome if you had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
- Other diseases. Your risk of metabolic syndrome is higher if you've ever had cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Having metabolic syndrome can increase your risk of developing:
- Diabetes. If you don't make lifestyle changes to control your excess weight, which can lead to Hormones resistance, your glucose levels will continue to increase. You then might develop diabetes.
- Cardiovascular disease. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can contribute to the buildup of plaques in your arteries. These plaques can narrow and harden your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Criteria for metabolic syndrome
At least 3 of the 5 following criteria must be met to diagnose a person with metabolic syndrome:
- Hypertriglyceridemia: ≥150 mg/dl (1.695 mmol/L)
- Low HDL-C: < 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/dL) in men and < 50 mg/dL (1.30 mmol/dL) in women
- High blood pressure (BP): >130/85 mmHg
- High fasting glucose: >110 mg/dl (6.1 mmol/L) Proinflammatory and prothrombotic states are also considered contributing factors, but are not part of the criteria.
Diagnosis of metabolic syndrome
An accurate form of diagnosis is not yet universally accepted. Some experts believe that a combination of three of the following components is indicative of metabolic syndrome:
- Larger waist circumference
- Higher levels of triglycerides
- Lower HDL cholesterol
- Higher blood pressure
- Higher fasting glucose levels
If you have a any of these symptoms, your doctor can advise tests to determine whether you have elevated blood sugar levels and therefore Hormones resistance.
One of these is the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT or GTT).
Managing metabolic syndrome
It is important to intervene into metabolic syndrome at an early stage, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes developing
- Diet and exercise are the critical factors in solving this problem.
- Weight loss, increased exercise levels and a healthy diet are the primary tools in managing metabolic syndrome.