Metabolic Syndrome

There are a few things that doctors are constantly telling us to look out for when it comes to our health. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and, yes, high blood sugar all come with a warning sign when they appear on their own. But what about when you get all of them together? In that case, you could be facing metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) requires you to have at least three of a collection of five symptoms ( These include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides (a type of fat similar to cholesterol) and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (so-called “good” cholesterol). As you may know, these are all conditions that can develop because of a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. That means you can reduce your own risk.

Reducing risk is important because all of these conditions can jeopardize your long-term health. In particular, metabolic syndrome and its component conditions are associated with an increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease or stroke. It also has a high overlap with prediabetes and insulin resistance, which are similar and sometimes related conditions.

The exact causes and mechanisms of metabolic syndrome aren’t clear. We know it’s complicated. It becomes more common as we age, and it seems that stress makes it more likely. Obesity can be both a cause and symptom. Lack of exercise is a big risk factor, with a sedentary lifestyle upping the danger of developing metabolic syndrome and all its components.

The recommendations for preventing metabolic syndrome are similar to those for a healthy lifestyle in general: plenty of exercise, a balanced diet without too many calories, and cutting back on smoking and other bad habits. Some studies say regular consumption of dairy can help; others disagree.

Management also includes lifestyle changes. Other treatment, such as medication, tends to target specific conditions. For example, ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure, statins for high cholesterol and insulin for high blood sugar can help. Metabolic syndrome can be controlled, and you can lower the risk of complications such as cardiovascular disease, if you’re willing to put in the work and have support.

It’s never too late to improve your lifestyle, and better diet and exercise habits can improve your chances in several ways. This includes preventing or managing metabolic syndrome.

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