What is syndrome x?

Posted on 11 April 2019

Metabolic syndrome, also ominously referred to as Syndrome X, is an umbrella of risk factors that can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. We take a closer look at this seemingly enigmatic disease.

Mediclinic Vergelegen Heart Surgeon Dr Luke Hunter says Metabolic Syndrome is “a fancy term referring to a quartet of processes that can culminate in the development of insulin resistance”, which may lead to serious diseases.

“There is a trend of moving away from calling it a syndrome, as the management of the syndrome is no different to the management of each of its components,” he explains.

In simple terms metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

The syndrome has become much more prevalent in the US in recent years and an estimated 34% of Americans suffer from this cluster of diseases, according to the American Heart Association. Being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle are among the major lifestyle factors linked to this cluster of diseases, Dr Hunter notes.


“Left unmanaged, progressive metabolic syndrome can lead to a whole range of problems,” says Dr Anna Hall, a general practitioner at Mediclinic Panorama.

These health issues include:

  • Hypertension and hyperlipidaemia, which can lead to chronic heart problems, heart attack and stroke
  • Diabetes, which has known complications, such as kidney disorders, cardiovascular disorders, blindness and amputations, among others
  • General obesity, sarcopaenia, a related symptom of “frail disease” and related joint problems

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology shows metabolic syndrome affects one in four American adults and can cause at least a two-fold risk of cardiovascular disease, and at least a five-fold increased risk for subsequent diabetes.


Associated risk factors may make you prone to developing Syndrome X.

Excess weight, especially in your abdomen, increases your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

“Genetics are very prominent in this disease process,” says Dr Hunter. “Also, a parental history of metabolic syndrome significantly increases the risk of disease development in their children.”

The risk of metabolic syndrome increases with age.

You may be more likely to develop metabolic syndrome if you had diabetes while pregnant, or if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes.

The risk is higher if you have a history of other diseases, such as heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or polycystic ovary syndrome.



“If you are diabetic, dyslipidemic or have high blood pressure, you need regular healthcare consults to ensure you are meeting requirements for effective treatment,” explains Dr Hunter. l Routinely monitor your body weight l Monitor blood glucose, lipoproteins and blood pressure l Treat individual risk factors, such as hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure and blood glucose l Consider blood pressure medications, as different drugs have different effects on insulin sensitivity

Dr Anna Hall, a general practitioner at Mediclinic Panorama, defines metabolic syndrome as the presence of any three of the following five traits:

  • Abdominal obesity, defined as a waist circumference in men equal to or more than (≥) 102 cm (40 in) and in women ≥88 cm (35 in)
  • Serum triglycerides, a type of fat ≥150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L), or drug treatment for elevated triglycerides
  • Serum high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol <40 mg/dL (1 mmol/L) in men and <50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women, or drug treatment for low HDL cholesterol
  • Blood pressure ≥130/85 mmHg, or drug treatment for elevated blood pressure
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) ≥100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L), or drug treatment for elevated blood glucose


What can you do?

EXERCISE Doctors recommend moderate exercise of 30 minutes every day. This can include brisk walking. You can become more active by a simple change in routine, such as walking instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the lift.

LOSE WEIGHT Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce insulin resistance and blood pressure along with decreasing the risk of diabetes.

HEALTHY DIET The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has been shown to be effective at improving heart health and preventing weight gain. The Mediterranean diet, like many healthy-eating plans, also limits unhealthy fats and emphasises fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.

QUIT SMOKING Smoking exacerbates the consequences of metabolic syndrome.

MANAGE STRESS Stress is associated with the risk factors of the syndrome. Speak to your doctor about adopting regular and sustainable stress-management techniques.




Published in Diabetes

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.

Post a comment

Leave a reply