Your Health A-Z

Metabolic syndrome: why it could kill you

Metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X, is a perfect storm for increasing a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

According to Dr David Walsh, a general practitioner at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, metabolic syndrome is a combination of at least three of five key risk factors (excess waist fat; high blood pressure; high blood sugar and triglyceride levels; and low levels of good cholesterol). If untreated, these increase the likelihood of a person developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“This is associated with serious health effects like narrowing and hardening of the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or peripheral artery disease,” explains Dr Walsh. “If diabetes develops, you may be at risk for other health complications, like eye damage, nerve damage, kidney disease and even limb amputation.”

The syndrome is closely associated with sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy weight, says Dr Walsh. “It also affects people with insulin resistance, which develops when your body does not effectively use the hormone insulin to move blood sugar (glucose) from the blood into the cells, where it is needed to provide energy to the body. The result is that glucose builds up in the blood despite your body’s attempt to control the glucose by producing more insulin.”

Can it be treated?

If diagnosed early, there are a number of lifestyle changes that can decrease your risk of developing further health complications. Weight loss, exercise and healthy eating, along with cutting out smoking, can all reduce your risk.

“The sooner you make these changes after being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, the more effectively you will be able to reduce health complications over the long term,” advises Dr Walsh.

metabolic syndrome, syndrome X

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.