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What is Metabolic Syndrome?

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

February 22, 2021

Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that put you at risk of a heart attack, a stroke or diabetes. Here's all you need to know about it's causes, preventions and how to reverse it.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that put you at risk of a heart attack, a stroke or diabetes.

These health problems are:

  • Insulin resistance or high blood sugar levels

  • Excess weight around your abdomen (central adiposity)

  • Increased blood pressure

  • High triglyceride levels

  • Low HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol levels

If you have 3 or more of these issues, you can probably be said to have metabolic syndrome. While having less than 3 means you don’t have metabolic syndrome, even one of these issues can put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Abdominal obesity is the most predominant risk factor and can occur in individuals who otherwise have a normal BMI.

What to expect from the test?

The test is a standard blood test, one of our trained professionals will draw a sample of blood. It is a very quick and simple procedure. Your blood sample is then brought to the lab and analysed.

What does the test check?

Your blood will be analysed for triglycerides, cholesterol and glucose levels:

Triglyceride blood test - Triglycerides are a type of lipid or fat in your body, they come from food such as butter, oils and other fatty foods. Triglycerides and fat are important for energy in the body, but when we consume too much the body converts any excess calories into triglycerides and stores them in our fat cells. High triglyceride levels can increase the risk of heart disease and be an indication that you have metabolic syndrome. You may be asked to fast for about 12 hours before taking a triglyceride blood test.

Normal levels of triglycerides are less than 1.7 mmol/L, anything higher than this would is known as Hypertriglyceridemia where an increased risk of metabolic syndrome occurs.

Cholesterol test - Your cholesterol levels will give a clearer picture of your good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. Having high bad cholesterol and low good cholesterol, along with high triglyceride levels make up a lipid profile that can suggest metabolic syndrome.

Cholesterol can also form a fatty buildup called plaque in your arteries that can stiffen your blood vessels and puts your heart under stress. This can lead to an increase in blood pressure.

Blood sugar test - Having a high fasting blood sugar level (i.e. your blood sugar levels after fasting) indicates that your body may have a resistance towards insulin and that you may be at risk of developing type II diabetes. Another link in the chain of conditions that lead to metabolic syndrome. You will be asked to fast (usually overnight) before taking a glucose blood test.

Fasting glucose levels should be less than 5.5 mmol/L

Simultaneously having high levels of glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides with a large waistline and high blood pressure means that you are at very high risk of developing metabolic syndrome

Symptoms and Risk Factors of Metabolic Syndrome

Many of the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome are not immediately obvious and may develop slowly over a long period of time. As metabolic syndrome is made up of multiple conditions there can be varying symptoms.

Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include:

  • Having a large waist

  • 94cm or more waist circumference in European men or 90cm or more in south Asian men

  • A waist circumference of 80 cm or more in women.

  • High triglyceride levels (triglycerides are fatty parts of the blood), deposit buildup which can lead to the narrowing of the arteries as it clogs, leaving a sticky plaque.

  • Consistent high blood pressure, 140/90mmHg or higher

  • Developing an insulin resistance where your body cannot control your blood sugar

  • Developing blood clots and deep vein thrombosis

  • Inflammation

Some risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome are due to diet and lack of exercise, but there can also be uncontrollable genetic factors that contribute to the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Risk factors of metabolic syndrome include:

  • Being overweight or obese, especially around your waist

  • Age – the older you get the higher the risk of developing metabolic syndrome

  • A lack of physical activity in your daily life

  • Ethnicity – Asian and African Caribbean people may be at higher risk

  • Other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and polycystic ovary syndrome (where women develop cysts on the ovaries and hormonal alterations)

Treatment for Metabolic Syndrome

The good news is that it’s possible to prevent and even reverse metabolic syndrome through healthier lifestyle choices. Maintaining a healthy waist size is a good way to do this, as fat especially around the belly can put pressure on your organs and increase insulin resistance. Fundamentally, keeping to a healthy and balanced diet can prevent metabolic syndrome.

  • Stick to a balanced diet that includes unsaturated fats, and eat saturated fats such as meat, dairy and butter in moderation

  • Exercise daily, even 30 minutes of exercise a day can improve fitness and help lose extra pounds

  • Stop smoking

  • Lose excess weight to reduce your waist size and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome

  • Reduce alcohol intake

All of these lifestyle changes will help lower your blood pressure and blood sugar, increase insulin sensitivity, maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels to ultimately reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

If you think you might be at risk of developing metabolic syndrome, it's easy to get tested with Melio. Our General Health Check will check your cholesterol, and give you an overview of your personal health. Find out more about getting a General Health Check here, and book your test today.

References

Grandl, Gerald, and Christian Wolfrum. “Hemostasis, endothelial stress, inflammation, and the metabolic syndrome.” Seminars in immunopathology vol. 40,2 (2018): 215-224. doi:10.1007/s00281-017-0666-5

Kassi, Eva et al. “Metabolic syndrome: definitions and controversies.” BMC medicine vol. 9 48. 5 May. 2011, doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-48

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-metabolic-syndrome.html

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/metabolic-syndrome/

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