Given how common metabolic syndrome is -- it's estimated that one out of four people meet the criteria -- everyone should be worried about their risk factors. After all, metabolic syndrome can dramatically increase your risk of serious health problems, such as diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes -- yet often people don't even know what it is.
Metabolic syndrome is generally defined as a cluster of risk factors, including high blood sugar, extra abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Some of these risk factors you can control. Others are outside your control. But if you understand the entire range of risk factors, you can better protect your health. You may have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome if:
- You are older. It's more common as people age. The risk of getting metabolic syndrome rises from 20% in your 40s, to 35% in your 50s, to 45% in your 60s and beyond.
- You are prone to blood clots and inflammation. Both are common in people with metabolic syndrome. Your doctor can do blood tests to find out if you have a high risk of clots and inflammation.
- You have other medical conditions. Metabolic syndrome is associated with a number of medical conditions. These include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), fatty liver, cholesterol gallstones, and lipodystrophy (which affects fat distribution).
- It runs in the family. Even if you are not obese you may have inherited a higher risk. This includes people who have parents or other first-degree relatives with diabetes.
- You are South Asian. South Asians seem to have a higher risk of insulin resistance and thus metabolic syndrome. Because of this, the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute have different recommendations for this group. A waist size above 35" (for men) and 31" (for women) is considered a metabolic syndrome risk factor.
Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Most of the metabolic syndrome risk factors don't have any symptoms. You usually can't feel high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Often, the only outward sign is packing some extra weight in the belly.
So the only way to find out if you have metabolic syndrome is to meet with your doctor. They will check your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It's another reason that regular check-ups are the key to staying healthy.