Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms Guide

Is it possible you or someone you know has metabolic syndrome symptoms? It’s a widespread group of conditions that affects as many as one out of every four people.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of risk factors that increase the chances of heart attacks, diabetes, and other serious conditions. The main causes are obesity and inactivity.

Since it’s a relatively new diagnosis, many are still unfamiliar with metabolic syndrome. The good news is that lifestyle changes are usually an effective treatment.

Metabolic syndrome, also known as metabolic syndrome X, cardiometabolic syndrome, syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, is a disorder of energy utilization and storage.

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

Central obesity, also known as visceral, male-pattern or apple-shaped adiposity, is the main symptom of metabolic syndrome is. It is characterized by an overweight individual with adipose tissue accumulation mainly around the waist and trunk.

Other symptoms of metabolic syndrome include:

High blood pressure
Decreased fasting serum HDL cholesterol
Elevated fasting serum triglyceride level (VLDL triglyceride)
Impaired fasting glucose
Insulin resistance

Associated conditions include:

Fatty liver (especially in concurrent obesity)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Erectile dysfunction
Acanthosis nigricans

It is diagnosed by a co-occurrence of three out of five of the following medical conditions: abdominal (central) obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides, and low high-density cholesterol (HDL) levels.

Introduction to Metabolic Syndrome

1. Understand the 5 factors. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome means having at least 3 of the 5 known risk factors. These include excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. The other 2 components relate to unhealthy cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.

2. Look at the big picture. Some experts disagree about whether metabolic syndrome accurately predicts heart conditions and diabetes. Just remember that all 5 of the risk factors are significant and can usually be controlled by eating better and exercising more.

3. Assess your risk. Obesity, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles top the list of factors that can predispose you to metabolic syndrome. The condition is also more common among seniors and certain ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.

4. Know your family medical history. Metabolic syndrome runs in families. Talk with your doctor about related conditions that affect you and your relatives. Especially relevant are diabetes, insulin resistance, hormone imbalances, heart conditions, and trouble with blood clotting.

Preventing and Managing Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms

1. Ask for a diagnosis. Since most symptoms of metabolic syndrome are invisible, it’s important to receive regular medical checkups. Simple tests can measure your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

2. Eat sensibly. Diet plays a big role. Aim to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits. Whole grains and lean proteins, like beans and fish, are also good. Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietician if you’re interested in a special meal plan for diabetes or other conditions.

3. Lose weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can have powerful effects. A 10% decrease in body weight may be enough to lower your blood pressure, control your blood sugar, and normalize your cholesterol levels.

4. Choose healthy fats. The final element in your diet is fat. Your doctor can let you know if it’s advisable to stay below the usual guidelines of obtaining about 25 to 30% of your calories from fats. Whatever the number, focus on monounsaturated sources like olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

5. Exercise regularly. Being active is also essential. Work your way to up to moderately intense exercise for 30 to 60 minutes per day. A gentle walk is a great way to get started.

6. Quit smoking. Regardless of whether you have metabolic syndrome, avoiding tobacco products is good for your cardiovascular system. It often takes several attempts to quit smoking permanently. Give yourself as many chances as necessary.

7. Take medication as prescribed. Your doctor may recommend medication. Several types of drugs have been proven effective, including blood pressure and diabetes medicines, as well as low dose aspirin.

You may be one of the 47 million Americans who have metabolic syndrome symptoms, but simple changes in behavior can dramatically lower your risks.

Talk with your doctor about the best strategies for you. Managing your weight and keeping your heart healthy will help you to enjoy a long and active life.

For More Information:

MedlinePlus: Metabolic Syndrome

Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després JP, Willett WC, Hu FB (2010).
Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis“.
Diabetes Care 33 (11): 2477–83. doi:10.2337/dc10-1079