Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a complex condition which is often described as ‘insulin resistance’. This means that a person who is insulin resistant is unable to control their blood sugar levels effectively.

In other words, they have a high level of insulin within their blood which their body does not control - or is ‘resistant to’, hence the term insulin resistant.

It occurs in people who have the following three conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

If someone has a combination of these three then they are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome as well as heart disease or a stroke.

This condition is more common than you think. It is prevalent in the US and is also affecting a high number of people in the UK, which may be attributed to rising obesity levels.

It tends to occur more in certain ethnic groups such as Afro-Caribbean and Asians. It also develops in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome.

Causes of metabolic syndrome

It is difficult to determine the exact cause but there are several contributing factors which include:

  • Family history
  • A tendency to insulin resistance
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

Metabolic syndrome develops in people who tend to put on weight easily and who lead sedentary lifestyles. If you fall into this category then be aware of this risk: which is even more important if you have high blood pressure as well.

Symptoms of metabolic syndrome

There are several indicators of this condition which include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Tendency to put on weight around the abdomen (‘apple shaped’) rather than on other parts of the body.
  • Insulin resistance
  • Very high levels of fats in the blood: high levels of triglycerides and low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL).
  • Tendency to thrombosis (small blood clots)
  • Tendency to inflammation

If you experience any of these then consult your GP.

Treatment for metabolic syndrome

This will include medication to control your high blood pressure and blood sugar levels (diabetes). But some of the blood pressure medications, such as diuretics can worsen your metabolic syndrome. If this occurs then your GP will prescribe an alternative.

Your lifestyle will be looked at and a few changes recommended. These will include losing weight, following a low fat diet and taking exercise.

You will also be given advice on how to check and regulate your blood sugar levels.

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