Metabolic syndrome is a collection of disorders – including high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance – that together increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is also known as syndrome X.
Metabolic syndrome affects about a quarter of adults in Australia but can also affect children and adolescents.
Metabolic syndrome symptoms
While metabolic syndrome itself doesn’t usually cause symptoms, the disorders that create it do.
The build-up of fat around the waist is a sign of the risk of metabolic syndrome, while high blood sugar could lead to symptoms of type 2 diabetes such as increased thirst and urination, fatigue, and blurred vision.
Metabolic syndrome diagnosis
A person may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if they have at least three of the following conditions:
- excessive fat around the waistline
- raised level of triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood
- high blood pressure
- high LDL and low HDL blood cholesterol levels
- type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance (increased blood sugar after fasting).
Metabolic syndrome treatment and prevention
The most powerful way to prevent and treat metabolic syndrome is a change in lifestyle.
Useful lifestyle changes include:
- losing weight to improve insulin resistance, lowered blood pressure and adjust cholesterol levels
- eating well, by reducing kilojoule intake, fat and salt and increasing whole grains, fruits and vegetables – this helps with weight loss, improves cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
- exercising for 30 to 60 minutes on most days – this will help reduce weight, improve cholesterol and blood glucose and lower blood pressure (anyone new to exercise should check with their doctor before starting)
- stopping smoking, as smoking increases the risk of metabolic syndrome
- reducing stress.
In children and adolescents, lifestyle changes like reducing screen time and increasing sport can reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome later in life.
If you think you might have metabolic syndrome, it is important to see your doctor. Medication and lifestyle modification can treat metabolic syndrome and reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Last reviewed: May 2015