Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, any of these conditions increase your risk of serious disease. If more than one of these conditions occur in combination, your risk is even greater.
If you have metabolic syndrome or any of the components of metabolic syndrome, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems.
Metabolic syndrome is primarily caused by obesity and inactivity.
Metabolic syndrome is linked to a condition called insulin resistance. Normally, your digestive system breaks down the foods you eat into sugar (glucose). Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that helps sugar enter your cells to be used as fuel.
In people with insulin resistance, cells don’t respond normally to insulin, and glucose can’t enter the cells as easily. As a result, glucose levels in your blood rise despite your body’s attempt to control the glucose by churning out more and more insulin.
This can eventually lead to diabetes when your body is unable to make enough insulin to keep the blood glucose within the normal range.
Most of the disorders associated with metabolic syndrome have no symptoms, although a large waist circumference is a visible sign. If your blood sugar is very high, you might experience signs and symptoms of diabetes — including increased thirst and urination, fatigue, and blurred vision.
When to see a doctor
If you know you have at least one component of metabolic syndrome, ask your doctor whether you need testing for other components of the syndrome.