Metabolic Syndrome Basics

Acronyms Medical

The metabolic syndrome consists of four different factors: high blood pressure, obesity, insulin resistance and a change in blood lipid levels. If all four factors occur together, they represent a high risk of coronary heart disease.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

The metabolic syndrome is not uniformly defined in Germany. The disease is most often associated with either insulin resistance or lifestyle-related ailments. Ultimately, the metabolic syndrome is a combination of several diseases, which can also occur individually:

High blood pressure, obesity, insulin resistance and a change in blood lipid levels. This “deadly quartet”, as the metabolic syndrome is also known, is often responsible for coronary heart disease. The official definition of metabolic syndrome has changed several times in recent years.┬áSee AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Metabolic Syndrome.

Causes

The main causes of metabolic syndrome are poor and unhealthy lifestyles. Too little exercise with too much or the wrong diet are the main factors. All four clinical pictures are so-called diseases of affluence that affect many people in western cultures.

However, other factors also come into play. For example, a genetic predisposition is relevant for being overweight. Medications can also play a role. Other diseases, such as hypothyroidism, can also cause obesity. High blood pressure can be caused by hormonal imbalances, kidney damage or cardiovascular system disorders.

In most cases, however, the actual causes lie in the dark. Insulin resistance has to do with a genetic metabolic disorder. However, the main cause of the metabolic syndrome remains an unhealthy lifestyle.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The metabolic syndrome manifests itself through clinical pictures such as obesity, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, increased blood sugar. Those affected often first notice signs of obesity, with the excess weight being concentrated in the abdomen.

This is accompanied by symptoms such as abdominal pain, shortness of breath or chest tightness. Elevated blood pressure manifests itself, among other things, in symptoms such as headaches, pain in the chest, pain in the limbs and constant restlessness. A lipid metabolism disorder leads to diabetes, which manifests itself, among other things, in a strong feeling of thirst, a pronounced urge to urinate and impaired vision.

Diabetes patients are also often exhausted and repeatedly suffer from nausea and vomiting as well as non-specific itching on the skin. Lipid metabolism disorders often only become noticeable through the consequences of vascular calcification. Externally, they can be recognized by the typical fat nodules on the hands, feet, eyelids and buttocks.

Every third person suffering from the metabolic syndrome has sleep apnea, which manifests itself through nocturnal breathing pauses and the resulting exhaustion and tiredness. Metabolic syndrome develops over months or years and is often not recognized until serious health problems have already developed. Risk factors such as obesity or high blood pressure therefore always require medical evaluation.

Diagnosis & History

The four individual diseases of the metabolic syndrome are usually diagnosed individually. One speaks of overweight when the body mass index is over 25. Obesity, i.e. pathological overweight, begins with a body mass index of 30. The more pronounced the overweight, the greater the risk of secondary diseases.

Arterial hypertension, i.e. high blood pressure, is primarily diagnosed by the doctor by measuring blood pressure. If left untreated, hypertension can result in heart disease, arteriosclerosis, and other organ damage. A first suspicion of insulin resistance is often a high body weight. Insulin resistance is present in all patients with type II diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious organ damage.

Changed blood lipid levels are determined by a blood test. If all four diseases occur together, a metabolic syndrome is diagnosed. If all four symptoms persist, the risk of coronary heart disease is very high. Cardiac arrhythmias, myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death can result from metabolic syndrome.

Complications

Those affected by this syndrome usually suffer from a variety of symptoms. In most cases, this leads to obesity and thus to high blood pressure. The affected person can then die of a heart attack if no treatment for this disease is initiated. Furthermore, there is shortness of breath, so that the resilience of the person concerned is significantly reduced. Tiredness and exhaustion appear.

It is not uncommon for the patient’s metabolism to be disturbed, so that the intake of food leads to pain. Patients can also die of sudden cardiac death. This syndrome significantly reduces life expectancy. Furthermore, the overweight leads to various restrictions in the life of the patents. Diabetes can cause various types of damage to the internal organs and further reduce life expectancy.

Treatment of this syndrome can be done with the help of medication. Complications usually do not arise. However, those affected also have to do without alcohol or cigarettes and are dependent on a strict diet. In many cases, most complaints can be reduced with this.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who are overweight, have high blood pressure, dyslipidemia or diabetes should consult a doctor regularly before they develop metabolic syndrome. The purpose of this measure is to prevent the metabolic syndrome if possible. Metabolic syndrome does not cause pain or significant discomfort. Its development therefore often goes unnoticed.

If a metabolic syndrome has already been diagnosed, regular visits to the doctor become even more important. The metabolic syndrome can result in serious secondary diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases. It is important to prevent this development. It is counteracted with suitable measures. For example, the doctor may recommend a diet aimed at lowering blood lipid levels and cholesterol levels.

High blood pressure and diabetes need to be monitored to keep them stable. If necessary, drug treatment must be initiated. If there is a suspicion of a genetically caused increase in certain blood values, appropriate tests must be carried out. This can be, for example, LDL cholesterol or a specific lipoprotein. If necessary, these can be removed by apheresis.

The doctor may refer people to see a dietician. The diet must be adapted to the metabolic syndrome. The necessary dietary measures can also be monitored by a doctor. The doctor may also recommend more exercise. Behavioral therapy can be recommended for support.

Treatment & Therapy

Metabolic syndrome is most commonly treated with lifestyle changes. But here, too, a distinction must be made between the four clinical pictures: Obesity should be gradually reduced through more exercise and a change in diet.

There are various models for this, some of which are supported by health insurance companies. Insulin resistance is also treated by increasing exercise and reducing daily calorie intake. In addition, sometimes high doses of insulin are prescribed to break the cycle of insulin resistance. Medicines are usually prescribed to treat high blood pressure, which are intended to normalize blood pressure values.

In addition, the patient must also change their lifestyle here in order to get the disease under control. Patients are advised to stop smoking, exercise more and lose excess weight. The patient should also change his lifestyle in the case of lipometabolic disorders that change blood lipid levels.

In some cases, vitamin D intake is increased in patients with a metabolic syndrome. The therapy of the metabolic syndrome should also include detailed counseling of the patient. In this consultation, he is informed about the risks of his illness and receives help to change his lifestyle.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of the metabolic syndrome depends on the individual severity of the existing disorders. With an unfavorable course of the disease, all existing irregularities appear together. These lead to a life-threatening condition. It can therefore lead to premature death and thus to an unfavorable prognosis. The disease is made up of four different factors. The fewer of these factors are evident, the better the future prospects are normally.

The way in which the patient cooperates with the change is also decisive for the course of development. Lifestyle must be optimized immediately and adapted to the natural needs of the organism. In addition, the weight must be kept within the normal range of the BMI. An unhealthy lifestyle due to the intake of pollutants and a lack of exercise leads to an increase in symptoms and thus to a critical condition.

With an early diagnosis and an immediate change in lifestyle by the affected person, the future prospects improve. Recovery from metabolic syndrome is possible. In addition to medical care, a change in everyday processes is absolutely necessary. Only through a permanent change in diet, a diet rich in vitamins and the avoidance of alcohol and nicotine can long-term freedom from symptoms occur.

Prevention

Since metabolic syndrome is primarily related to lifestyle, a healthy lifestyle is the best means of prevention. This includes a diet that contains a lot of fruit, vegetables and whole grain products, but little sugar. Regular exercise is also important. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided. With these basic rules, everyone can effectively prevent metabolic syndrome and minimize the risk of coronary heart disease.

Aftercare

After chronic high blood pressure has been relieved, patients often feel tired, exhausted and exhausted. Since the metabolic syndrome is a complex clinical picture in which a wide variety of complications can occur, the aftercare is primarily aimed at preventing the condition from getting worse.

Appropriate medication is used to counteract the occurring lipid metabolism disorders, elevated blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. The prescribed medication can cause side effects such as gastrointestinal complaints or skin changes. Follow-up care, like preventive care, focuses on averting the causes of metabolic syndrome in the long term by paying attention to which factors promote the disease.

You can do that yourself

Those affected can treat metabolic syndrome themselves by changing their lifestyle. Depending on the clinical picture, for example, the weight must then be reduced or regular exercise integrated into everyday life. Patients should have a medical check-up beforehand to rule out cardiovascular problems and other diseases.

An adjustment of the diet is usually also necessary, because only the development of healthy eating habits and the avoidance of unhealthy food and drinks can protect against long-term effects. A low-calorie, low-fat mixed diet made up of fiber and complex carbohydrates is recommended . Individual advice from the doctor or a nutritionist makes it easier to put together a suitable nutrition plan. The patient should also refrain from stimulants. smoking and alcoholare not recommended for metabolic syndrome, as this will only lead to further health problems. Patients who take medication should consult their doctor and adapt their medication to their new lifestyle so that the metabolic syndrome can be reduced as unhindered as possible.

If the symptoms do not subside, it is best to inform the responsible doctor. Concomitant drug treatment or other therapy may then be necessary.