Introduction 

Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. It puts you at greater risk of heart disease, stroke and other conditions affecting blood vessels.

On their own, diabeteshigh blood pressure, and obesity can potentially damage your blood vessels, but having all three together is particularly dangerous.

They are very common conditions that are all linked, which explains why metabolic syndrome affects an estimated one in four adults in the UK.

What are the symptoms?

People with metabolic syndrome will have:

  • a waist circumference of 40 inches or more (in men) and 35 inches or more (in women)
  • high levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL ('good' cholesterol) in the blood, which can lead to atherosclerosis – where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances such as cholesterol
  • high blood pressure that is consistently 140/90mmHg or higher
  • an inability to control blood sugar levels (insulin resistance)
  • an increased risk of developing blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis 
  • a tendency to develop inflammation (irritation and swelling of body tissue)

What are the causes?

The factors that can cause metabolic syndrome are:

  • having an inherited genetic tendency towards insulin resistance 
  • being overweight
  • being physically inactive

In other words, you can develop metabolic syndrome if you were born with a tendency to develop insulin resistance, and you go on to develop this by putting on weight and not exercising.

Metabolic syndrome is especially common in Asian and African-Carribean people, and in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

What can I do?

You can prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome by making the following lifestyle changes:

The above links will take you to information and practical advice to help you make these lifestyle changes.




Losing weight: how your GP can help

A GP talks about visiting your doctor to get help with losing weight. He describes how you'll be assessed and given an individually tailored weight loss plan. Elinor, who had health problems caused by her weight, explains why she asked her GP for help instead of choosing to follow a commercial diet.

Media last reviewed: 30/04/2013

Next review due: 30/04/2015

Page last reviewed: 21/09/2012

Next review due: 21/09/2014