Metabolic syndrome is a combination of five conditions that effect your metabolic health. These conditions include:
1) high blood pressure (hypertension)
2) high blood sugar
3) extra body fat around the waist (an “apple shaped” body)
4) low levels of good HDL cholesterol
5) high triglyceride levels
If you have only one of these conditions, you do not have metabolic syndrome — it’s only considered metabolic syndrome when you experience at least three of them together. Metabolic syndrome is common — nearly one-third of American adults have it.
There are serious complications that can happen if your metabolic syndrome is not under control — complications are the progression of your current conditions that can have a more intense or worse impact on your overall health. With any of these conditions alone, the risk for developing complications is high. Together it is even higher. Complications of metabolic syndrome are type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The biggest way to prevent these complications are lifestyle changes.
Symptoms of metabolic syndrome can be different based on what individual conditions you have. The most noticeable symptom of metabolic syndrome is the excess fat around the waist. However, if you have issues with your blood sugar, you could have similar symptoms to diabetics — urinating often, thirst, tiredness or fatigue, and blurry vision.
If you have one of the five conditions that make up metabolic syndrome, talk to your provider about how to check for the other conditions and what kind of testing you might need to do. Preventing the development of another condition is important for lowing your risk of complications.
It is likely that your provider at EPIC will recommend a comprehensive metabolic panel. This is a blood test that checks your levels for 14 different things in your blood and can tell your provider a lot about your health. These measurements can tell your provider your risk of developing complications like diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, cholesterol issues, and more. EPIC providers will request a comprehensive metabolic panel often — every 90 days — to make sure they are monitoring your health and making sure your conditions are not getting worse.
There are some risk factors and causes connected to metabolic syndrome. The biggest risk factors are being overweight or obese, being physically inactive, having a resistance to insulin, getting older, and genetics. Other factors include:
- In the U.S., Hispanics — especially Hispanic women — are at the greatest risk of developing metabolic syndrome. There is no clear reason for this.
- You’re more likely to have metabolic syndrome if you had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
- Other diseases.Your risk of metabolic syndrome is higher if you’ve ever had nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome or sleep apnea.
If you are at risk for metabolic syndrome, there are lifestyle changes you can make that will help prevent it from developing.
Prevention and Treatment:
To prevent metabolic syndrome and the complications that come with it, you need to commit to serious lifestyle changes. These include:
- Losing weight in a healthy way with a focus on diet and exercise
- This can also help with insulin resistance, which is one of the main causes of metabolic syndrome.
- Changing your diet based on your conditions (for example, the DASH Diet for people with high blood pressure)
- For all patients at risk of metabolic syndrome, a good diet to follow is one focused on whole grains, heart-healthy foods like fish and legumes, and fruits and vegetables.
- Increasing your physical activity
- This can be so many different things but find an activity that is enjoyable for you: walking, running, playing with kids or animals, playing a sport, working out at a gym, and more. Physical activity doesn’t always need to be something organized or intense — it can look like choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Quitting smoking if you’re a smoker
- Drinking in moderation or not at all
Treatment for metabolic syndrome is very similar to prevention — the best thing you can do is make a lifestyle change and commit to it.
It can be very difficult to make a transition to a new lifestyle and commit to it, especially if you have never done the things these changes are asking you to do. At EPIC, we have a team of specialists who can help you make these changes successfully and without stress.
At EPIC, we offer an exercise physiology program for all patients to use. It can be hard for people with multiple chronic conditions to get into exercise on their own, so EPIC makes exercise approachable for patients. Even if you have never worked out before, our exercise physiologists can teach you how to get started.
We have licensed exercise physiologists, who are like personal trainers but are familiar with chronic conditions. Their appointments are billed to the patient’s insurance.
To learn more about our exercise physiology program, click here.
EPIC also has a registered dietitian who helps with meal planning. Diet is one of the biggest factors in controlling the conditions that contribute to metabolic syndrome, so dietitians can help patients make a personalized meal plan that works with their lifestyle. Most foods are fine in moderation, but a dietitian can help you figure out what diet will work best for you.
To learn more about our registered dietitians and nutrition program, click here.
If lifestyle changes are not enough, your provider might prescribe you medication based on your specific conditions to help with your treatment. This can look like pills to help with your high blood pressure or your cholesterol, or insulin to help with your blood sugar.