Also known as syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome, metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself. It is a combination of medical disorders that together, increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. Patients diagnosed with metabolic syndrome should see it as an advanced warning from their bodies.
Individuals with metabolic syndrome have twice to three times the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and five times the risk of developing diabetes.
The factors that define metabolic syndrome
To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a patient must have at least 3 of the following factors:
- Central obesity (obesity located mainly at the waist): waist circumference greater than 94 cm for men and 80 cm for women
- Triglyceride levels greater or equal to 1.7 mmol/L
- Good cholesterol (HDL) levels lower than 1.0 mmol/L for men and 1.3 mmol/L for women
- Fasting blood sugar greater or equal to 5.6 mmol/L
- Blood pressure greater or equal to 130/85 mmHg
The following factors increase one's risk of developing metabolic syndrome:
- Ethnicity (higher occurrence in those of Native Indian ancestry, Hispanics, African-Americans and South Asians)
- Family history of type-2 diabetes
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Metabolic syndrome itself has no symptoms. That said, it can be several years before metabolic syndrome is diagnosed and oftentimes, significant damage has already occurred.
Treatment and prevention
The main focus of preventing or treating metabolic syndrome is to prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or stroke. Prevention mainly involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits:
- Exercising more: the risk of developing metabolic syndrome is 27% lower in active individuals
- Adopting healthy eating habits
These two measures will help promote weight loss which, in turn, will reduce blood pressure and blood lipids. It is also important to schedule regular follow-ups with your physician to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
If lifestyle changes are not enough, medication may be prescribed. They will be chosen as a function of the health issues to be treated.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.