Primary care medicine

Metabolic syndrome - driving the CVD epidemic

Metabolic syndrome is a group of serious health conditions that increases your risk of developing diabetes, heart attack, stroke and chronic kidney disease. Having one of these conditions doesn't mean you have metabolic syndrome but it does mean you have an elevated risk. However, if you develop three of more of these conditions, you are diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome and your risks now are even higher.

Criteria listed for diagnosis of metabolic syndrome:

  • Central adiposity, waist circumference more than 102 cm (40 inches) in men and  88 cm (35 inches) in women
  • Elevated triglycerides 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) 
  • Reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) less than 40 mg/dL (0.9 mmol/L) in men or less than 50 mg/dL (1.1 mmol/L) in women
  • Elevated fasting glucose of l00 mg/dL (or 5.6 mmol/L) or greater
  • Blood pressure values of systolic 130 mmHg or higher and/or diastolic 85 mmHg or higher

The prevalent of metabolic syndrome is higher than ever globally and has serious implications on an individual’s health and country's healthcare burden and costs. The cause of metabolic syndrome is associated with a phenomenon called 'insulin resistance' in which your body's cells no longer respond to insulin. Insulin is an important hormone that facilitates the entry of glucose inside the cells to be use as fuel for the body. Insulin resistance cause the  glucose level to be too high in the blood. This is often in combination with genetic and poor lifestyle habit such as eating too much sweetened foods and drinks, refined carbohydrates, fatty and oily foods, sedentary lifestyle, high stress level, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and poor sleeping pattern.

Metabolic syndrome can be prevented with lifestyle modification and weight management. Being physically active is especially important. You can prevent your risk of getting metabolic syndrome by moving your body more and avoid sedentary behaviours such as watching television or sitting in front of computer for hours. It is recommended that you get 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical exercise per week. You can start slowly by walking and gradually build on your activity. You can also increase your physical activity by taking stairs instead of elevator, cleaning your house or gardening.

If you are overweight or obese, it is important to start losing weight as it can significantly reduce your risk. This can be done by cutting down on unnecessary calories such as desserts and sweet drinks, using healthier options such as olive oil instead of butter and cutting down portion size. It is also important to ensure a balance meal that are rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meats, fish and healthy fats. It is also important to cut down on oily and fatty foods that are high in cholesterol and excessive salt consumption. Quitting smoking and cutting down alcohol consumption can tremendously reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Besides practicing a healthy lifestyle, it is also important to have your health screening and parameters check regularly. This is important for an early diagnosis which can facilitates aggressive lifestyle interventions and initiation of medications.

If you would like to know more about metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease prevention, talk to our doctor for more information.