Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that include abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Treatment is focused on tackling each of these conditions. The goal is to cut your odds of blood vessel disease and heart disease, as well as diabetes.
In most cases, the best treatment for metabolic syndrome rests with you. Changes to your behavior -- such as eating healthier and getting more exercise -- are the first things your doctor will suggest. By adopting some healthy habits, you may be able to eliminate your risk factors completely.
Make These Lifestyle Changes
- Get some exercise. Exercise is a great way to lose weight, but don't get down if the scale isn't showing progress. Even if you don't lose a single pound, exercise can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and improve insulin resistance. If you're out of shape, start slowly. Try walking more. Work more physical activity into your day. When you're on foot, allow a little extra time to take the scenic route to get some extra steps. To keep track, buy a pedometer (step counter). Gradually increase your physical activity until you're doing it on most days of the week. But don't get too ambitious. If you try a workout regime that's too tough, you may give up. You need to find a level of exercise that fits your personality.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet can improve your cholesterol, insulin resistance, and blood pressure -- even if your weight stays the same. For advice on healthy eating, ask your doctor or registered dietitian. If you have heart disease or diabetes, you may need special meal plans. In general, a diet that's low in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt -- and high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, beans, low fat dairy, and whole grains -- has been shown to help people with high blood pressure and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Many doctors suggest a "Mediterranean" diet or the DASH diet. These meal plans emphasize "good" fats (like the monounsaturated fat in olive oil) and a balance of carbohydrates and proteins.
- Lose some weight. Obviously, weight loss is often a by-product of exercising and eating well. But it's a key goal in itself if you're overweight or obese. Weight loss can improve every aspect of metabolic syndrome.
- If you smoke, quit. It's not a risk factor for what’s considered metabolic syndrome, yet smoking greatly increases your risk of blood vessel and heart disease.
Talk to Your Doctor About Medication
You may need medicine to help with metabolic syndrome, if lifestyle changes aren't enough to reduce your risks. Some drugs you might use are:
- High blood pressure medicines, which include ACE inhibitors (like Capoten and Vasotec), angiotensin II receptor blockers (like Cozaar and Diovan), diuretics, beta-blockers, and other drugs.
- Cholesterol medicines, which include statins (like Crestor, Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol, and Zocor), niacin (like Niacor, Niaspan, and Nicolar), bile acid resins (like Colestid and Questran), Zetia, and other drugs.
- Diabetes medicines, which may be necessary if you have glucose intolerance. Drugs include metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), and rosiglitazone (Avandia).
- Low-dose aspirin, which can reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes. It may be especially important for people who are "prothrombotic," or prone to blood clots.
Keep in mind that all medicines can have side effects and risks. Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons.