Metabolic syndrome, also called syndrome X, is a collection of risk factors which together increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that 20-30% of Australian adults are affected.
Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when you have three or more of the following risk factors:
- Excess weight around the middle (a waist circumference of more than 88cm for women and more than 102cm for men of Caucasian background but these may vary for those from different ethnic backgrounds – your doctor can advise you on your individual targets)
- High triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood
- Low levels of HDL (‘good’) cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes
While each of these are risk factors on their own, their combined risks are even greater. If you have metabolic syndrome, your risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) is doubled and your risk of diabetes is around seven times greater than in those who don’t have the condition.
Managing Metabolic Syndrome
While genetics and age both play a part, lifestyle modification is the key to preventing and managing metabolic syndrome. The same lifestyle changes that are recommended for preventing and managing heart disease and type 2 diabetes can help. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly and reducing sedentary time
- Losing weight and reducing your waist measurement
- Quitting, if you smoke
- Getting adequate sleep
- Managing stress levels
Medications may also be needed to manage individual risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood glucose levels.
In children and adolescents, lifestyle changes including a healthy diet, increasing physical activity and reducing screen time can reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome later in life.
If you suspect you may have metabolic syndrome it’s important to see your doctor who can organise the tests needed to diagnose the condition. They will also help you to work out the best way to manage the condition to reduce the risk of future health problems.