Metabolic syndrome affects up to 1 in 3 adults over 50 in the UK. It results from cardiovascular risk factors combining diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. All three conditions put you at a greater risk of heart attacks or a stroke. But having all three conditions simultaneously is particularly dangerous for your health. The good news is that many lifestyle changes can help prevent this condition — like following a balanced diet and regular exercise.
What are the symptoms of metabolic syndrome?
You might be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following symptoms:
Carrying excess weight
Being overweight increases the fat levels in your blood, increasing your risk of developing heart disease. You’re at a particularly high risk if you have a large amount of fat around your waist.
If you need help losing weight, speak to your doctor. They can help you do this safely.
High levels of triglycerides
Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood.
They’re essential for your health, but your heart disease risk increases if your levels are too high (hypertriglyceridemia). This is because high levels are linked to the hardening or thickening of your arteries — atherosclerosis. And this increases your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
Studies show taking 2-4g of omega 3 daily can help reduce your triglyceride levels by 15-30%. Check to see if you get enough omega-3 nutrients by using a omega-3 blood test.
If you're deficient or need to improve your levels, consider taking our premium omega-3 supplements. But you should always speak to your GP before starting a new supplement.
High blood pressure
Blood pressure measures the force your heart uses to pump blood around your body.
High blood pressure (hypertension) strains your blood vessels, making them more prone to damage. It can have no symptoms, but if untreated, it increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Blood pressure ranges for adults are as follows:
- normal blood pressure: between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- high blood pressure: 140/90mmHg or higher
- low blood pressure: below 90/60mmHg
A blood pressure machine is the only way to measure your levels. You can ask for a blood pressure check through your GP. Or, consider buying a high-quality device to check your levels at home regularly.
To understand your baseline blood pressure levels, measure them twice daily — aim to do this while sitting down and feeling relaxed. Check your blood pressure once, ideally in the morning and once in the evening. Take two readings each time, one minute apart. Continue measuring your blood pressure twice daily for seven days to establish what’s normal for your body.
Ask your healthcare professional for advice if you’re worried about your blood pressure.
Insulin is a hormone that helps control your blood sugar (glucose) levels.
How do you get a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome?
There isn't one blood test to diagnose metabolic syndrome.
But your healthcare provider will combine information about your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels to help build a picture of what’s happening in your body.
How do you manage metabolic syndrome?
The good news is many lifestyle changes can help prevent and reverse the development of metabolic syndrome. These include:
The carbon monoxide and nicotine in cigarettes increase your heart rate, making your heart work faster. Long-term, this strains your heart — making it more vulnerable to conditions like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
But it’s never too late to stop. Studies show that your heart attack risk is reduced by half a year after quitting smoking. And after 15 years, your risk of heart disease is similar to someone who has never smoked.
If you need help quitting smoking, your GP can help you do this safely.
Learn more about how smoking and vaping affect your health.
Drinking less alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause damage to your heart over time by:
- increasing your blood pressure — puts a strain on your heart and can increase your risk of heart disease or a heart attack
- increasing your cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- weakening your heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)
Adults should aim for no more than 14 units a week. If you drink alcohol, try to spread it out evenly and have alcohol-free days in the week.
You could also try including more alcohol-free activities in your daily routine. You might consider:
- riding a bicycle
- going for a walk
- meeting a friend for lunch
- reading a book
- playing a board game
- going to an exercise class
If you want to stop drinking altogether, you can try many delicious alcohol-free drinks in pubs, bars, restaurants, and supermarkets.
If you’re worried about quitting drinking, ask your doctor for advice to do this safely.
Learn more about how alcohol affects your health.
Losing weight if you’re overweight
Losing weight can reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome by lowering your blood pressure, blood sugar (glucose) levels, and regulating your cholesterol levels.
Speak to your doctor for advice on losing weight safely. You should avoid crash dieting as this can lead to poor health outcomes.
Including any form of physical activity in your daily routine can help to reduce obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity weekly.
Moderate-intensity activities include:
- brisk walking
- water aerobics
- pushing a lawn mower
Speak to your GP before increasing your activity level — particularly if you have an existing condition. They can help you do this safely.
Following a balanced diet
Consuming a balanced diet can help reduce your metabolic syndrome risk.
Avoid cutting out specific food groups, as you might not get enough nutrients to support your overall health.
A balanced diet includes:
- at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily
- high-fibre starchy foods — like potatoes, bread, rice, or pasta
- dairy — like milk, cheese, and yoghurt
- dairy alternatives — like soya drinks
- beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and other protein
- unsaturated oils and spreads in small amounts
- at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily
Reducing your salt intake can help reduce your blood pressure if your levels are high. And some studies suggest that the DASH diet can help to reduce high blood pressure. But you should always check with your doctor first before starting a diet.
If you have any dietary needs or allergies, your GP or a registered dietitian can help you build a meal plan that works for you.
Check to see if you’re getting enough nutrients through your diet using an at-home vitamins and minerals blood test.
If your results are abnormally low or you follow a meat-free diet, consider taking our premium supplements. But always speak to a healthcare professional before trying a new supplement.
If necessary, your doctor might prescribe medication to help control your blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol levels. Combined with lifestyle changes, these can significantly reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome progressing.