Metabolic Syndrome

Do you feel tired?  Do you feel fatigued and lethargic?  Do you have a fuzzy mind?  Are you reaching middle-age?  These are a few of the symptoms of a new disorder – METABOLIC SYNDROME.

It goes by many other names – Syndrome X, Dysmetabolic syndrome, insulin resistance syndrome, obesity syndrome and Reaven’s syndrome.  Furthermore, in 1998 WHO (World Health Organisation) was the 1st to publish an Internationally Accepted Definition for Metabolic Syndrome.

What is metabolic Syndrome?  It is a cluster of related syndromes which can cause an individual to be susceptible to a series of medical nightmares such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney diseases, clogged arteries and premature death.  The symptoms of metabolic syndromes are

  1. Central / Abdominal Obesity as measured by weight circumference. Men greater than 40 inches (120cm), Women greater than 35 inches (88cm).
  2. Fasting triglycerides (Bad cholesterol) greater than or equal to 150mg / dL (1.69mmol/L)
  3. HDL Cholesterol (Good cholesterol) – men less than 40mg/dL (1.04mmol/L) Women less than 50mg/dL (1.29mmol/L)
  4. Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85mm Hg.
  5. Fasting glucose greater than or equal to 110mg /dL (6.1mmol/L)

A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is made if one fulfils three out of the 5 symptoms.  If left untreated, the medical complications can develop in as few as 15 years.  It can affect any age but most frequently those who are significantly overweight (with most of the excess fat in the abdominal area) and are inactive.  Furthermore, 20% of adults in US (47 million) have this syndrome with the prevalence approaching 50% in the elderly.  Obesity in Malaysia is also on an increasing trend.

Who is at Risk?

Risk factors are necessary to alert an individual the probability of obtaining this slow but deadly syndrome.  The risk factors are :

  1. Age

The prevalence increases with age affecting less than 10% people in their 20s and 40% in their 60s.  One study showed that about 1 in 8 school kids have three or more symptoms of the metabolic syndrome.

  1. Obesity

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of your percentage of body fat based on height and weight.  If the BMI is greater than 25 it increases the risk of metabolic syndrome.  An apple shaped rather than a pear shaped abdominal obesity also increases the risk.  This shape is usually due to lack of exercise and improper nutrition.

  1. Race

Metabolic syndrome is more common among blacks and Mexican Americans than Caucasians.

  1. History of Diabetes

Gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and family history of type 2 diabetes are likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

  1. Other diseases

Hypertension, cardio vascular disease and polycystic ovarian syndrome – a hormonal disorder in which the ovaries produce an excess of male hormones increases the risk of metabolic syndrome.


Metabolic Syndrome is a slow progressive syndrome that may take as long as 15 years before it appears in a full spectrum.  Therefore in alignment with all medical diseases, prevention is better than cure.  You can curb your insulin resistance by just taking control and making these lifestyle changes:

  1. Exercise

Walking just 30 minutes every day or engaging in any aerobic activity.  Exercise provides a wide range of benefits extending from reduction in medical diseases to sharing an activity with friends and family.

  1. Lose weight

By just loosing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight one can reduce insulin levels, high blood pressure and decrease your risk of diabetes.  Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable diseases.  Annually it causes at least 300 000 excess death in the US.

  1. Stop Smoking

Smoking cigarettes is generally hazardous to the health of active and passive smokers.  Unfortunately it also creates an increase in insulin resistance and hence worsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome.

  1. Eating habits

Thinking and eating sensibly is a good tip for a healthy lifestyle.  Ensure that your grocery cart includes whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.  These items are rich with dietary fiber which helps in lowering the insulin levels.  One should choose lean cuts of white meat or fish over red meat.  Avoid highly refined carbohydrates, sugary foods, processed and deep fried dinners.  On the other hand, explore the usage of herbs and spices and eliminate table salts.

Unfortunately, most of us eat to satisfy our taste buds and not for our wellbeing.  You are what you eat.  Our favourite and frequently eaten food such as cakes, chocolate, cookies, doughnuts, bread, nasi lemak, fast foods and soft drinks increases glucose and insulin to unhealthy levels which subsequently results to insulin resistance.  Furthermore, they are devoid of many vitamins, minerals, vitamin like nutrients that our body needs to properly utilize these foods.