Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Introduction

Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. It puts you at greater risk of heart disease, stroke and other conditions affecting blood vessels.

On their own, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity can potentially damage your blood vessels, but having all three together is particularly dangerous.

They are very common conditions that are all linked.

What are the symptoms?

People with metabolic syndrome will have:

  • a waist circumference of 40 inches or more (in men) and 35 inches or more (in women)
  • high levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL ('good' cholesterol) in the blood, which can lead to atherosclerosis – where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances such as cholesterol
  • high blood pressure that is consistently 140/90mmHg or higher
  • an inability to control blood sugar levels (insulin resistance)
  • an increased risk of developing blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis
  • a tendency to develop inflammation (irritation and swelling of body tissue)

What are the causes?

The factors that can cause metabolic syndrome are:

  • having an inherited genetic tendency towards insulin resistance
  • being overweight
  • being physically inactive

In other words, you can develop metabolic syndrome if you were born with a tendency to develop insulin resistance, and you go on to develop this by putting on weight and not exercising.

Metabolic syndrome is especially common in Asian and African-Carribean people, and in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

What can I do?

You can prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • losing weight
  • getting active
  • eating healthily to keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels under control
  • stopping smoking
  • cutting down on alcohol
  • if necessary, take medication to control high blood sugar and cholesterol levels (read about the treatment of diabetes and the treatment of high cholesterol)

The above links will take you to information and practical advice to help you make these lifestyle changes.

Content supplied by NHS Choices