What is metabolic syndrome and how can I prevent it?

Published: Monday, June 19, 2023

Metabolic syndrome is incredibly common in the United States. In fact, 1 in 3 adults struggle with metabolic syndrome. With the United States population rapidly aging, metabolic syndrome may become a leading cause of cardiovascular disease.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome, also known as insulin resistance syndrome, is a group of conditions that can raise your risk of diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease and other serious medical conditions. The conditions include high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides, unhealthy cholesterol levels and abdominal obesity.

While the exact causes are unknown, obesity, ethnicity, age, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, genetics, heavy drinking, smoking, personal or family history of diabetes, insulin resistance, hormonal changes and increased age may increase your chances of having metabolic syndrome.

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

There are typically no immediate symptoms of metabolic syndrome, as they normally develop over time. Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include three or more of the following health conditions:

  • High blood pressure
    Having blood pressure that stays high for a long time can cause damage to your heart and your blood vessels. High blood pressure can also cause buildup in your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
  • High blood sugar levels
    High blood sugar levels can also raise your risk of blood clots and damage your blood vessels. Blood clots can also lead to further complications with heart and blood vessel diseases.
  • High blood triglycerides
    High levels of triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in your blood, can raise your levels of LDL cholesterol. This can raise your risk of heart disease.
  • Low HDL cholesterol
    HDL cholesterol is also known as the “good” cholesterol, while LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol. HDL helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood vessels. LDL can potentially cause the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels.
  • Abdominal obesity, or an “apple-shaped” body
    If you have a larger waistline (35 inches for women, 40 inches for men), this may be indicative of abdominal obesity. This causes a bigger risk of heart disease because of the extra fat in your stomach area.

How to Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

While it is common, metabolic syndrome is extremely preventable through lifestyle changes. A healthy diet, physical activity and losing weight can help to keep away metabolic syndrome.

Physical inactivity and excess weight are two main factors that contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome. Eating a healthy diet can help to restore your body’s ability to recognize insulin, as well as reduce the chance that metabolic syndrome will develop into a more serious condition. Try to integrate whole-grain carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, legumes, healthy fats and fish into your diet.

Regular exercise can also help to improve your sensitivity to insulin. At least 30 minutes of exercise a day can help to promote weight loss, reduce your chances of developing diabetes, and lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

Managing stress, reducing alcohol intake and quitting smoking are also good habits to adopt when looking to prevent metabolic syndrome. If changes in lifestyle are still not enough, your doctor may prescribe medicine to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure.

Learn More

If you would like to learn more and be evaluated for metabolic syndrome, our Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids is here to help! Call 770-219-0960 to schedule an appointment.