Metabolic Syndrome Signs & Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Stacy Henigsman
Nutritionally Reviewed by
Felice Ramallo, RDN

Metabolic Syndrome is a group of health problems including high blood pressure and high blood sugar that increase your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health issues. Metabolic Syndrome symptoms can be tricky to pin down because they don’t always manifest in obvious ways. Taking the time to understand the signs of metabolic syndrome can provide valuable insights into your well-being, help you address these issues, and get you on the right track with the support of the right healthcare team.

Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome is a chronic condition with a mix of risk factors, such as a larger waistline, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and low high-density lipoprotein(HDL)cholesterol. It affects as many as 1 in 3 American adults and has serious implications for women. Metabolic Syndrome can throw off your hormonal health, lead to insulin resistance (the precursor to diabetes) and heart problems, which is a big deal as cardiovascular disease is the number 1 cause of death in women in America. Early detection is essential because Metabolic Syndrome is reversible, and working with a healthcare professional and making some lifestyle changes can go a long way.

Key Signs of Metabolic Syndrome in Women

Because Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of conditions, you have to be diligent about learning and knowing the different signs. Some of those include additional fat concentrated around the midsection. Next, high triglycerides in your blood can spell trouble. On the flip side, low HDL cholesterol isn’t good for you, as it helps keep your blood vessels clear. High blood pressure puts an additional strain on your heart and arteries. Lastly, elevated fasting glucose levels indicate your body isn't managing blood sugar well, which can lead to diabetes. If you meet three or more of these criteria, it’s crucial that you take action and talk to your healthcare provider.

Increased Waist Circumference

A waist circumference of 35” or more in women is considered an essential factor in predicting insulin resistance. It is also an early sign of Metabolic Syndrome. Extra abdominal fat is also associated with sleep problems, PCOS and cardiovascular disease. Hormonal changes, especially during menopause, can contribute to increased abdominal fat. As estrogen levels drop, your body may store more fat around the waist. But there is hope! You can manage these changes with a balanced diet and regular movement, reducing your risk of Metabolic Syndrome.

Elevated Blood Pressure in Women

Did you know that nearly half of people 20+ have high blood pressure? And what’s worse, there are usually zero symptoms, so many people aren’t even aware. A 130/85 mmHg or above blood pressure reading is considered high. Although it's common, if left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Post-menopausal women and women with a history of pregnancy-related hypertension are at an increased risk and should regularly monitor their blood pressure levels. You can buy an at-home blood pressure cuff, but going to your doctor is the best way to check. If your latest numbers are on the higher side, working with a nutritionist to create a low-sodium diet and reducing stress can help.

High Fasting Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar, or glucose, is your body’s main form of energy, so keeping a stable supply helps us maintain our energy and focus. When your fasting glucose level is too high, 100 md/dL or higher, you could be at increased risk for both Metabolic Syndrome and Type II Diabetes. Perimenopausal women, women with PCOS, or who have a history of gestational diabetes are at an increased risk and should be screened regularly for diabetes. Reducing how much sugar you eat, especially refined sugar, while increasing your fiber intake can help manage your blood sugar levels. 

High Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a fat, or lipid, found in your blood. Lipids are expected since they come from the calories we consume. Having a high level of triglycerides, 150 mg/dL or higher, may be associated with Type 2 Diabetes, Prediabetes, hypothyroidism or Metabolic Syndrome. Women who take hormonal birth control, have PCOS, are pregnant or post-menopausal are more likely to have higher levels of triglycerides. Regular monitoring is key! So is a diet low in saturated fats. Women can also benefit from adding more omega-3 fatty acids to their diet, which can lower blood triglyceride levels. These small changes can make a big difference in keeping your heart healthy and strong.

Low HDL Cholesterol: A Concern for Women

On the opposite end of the spectrum, having low HDL Cholesterol levels, 50 mg/dL or lower for women, is a risk factor for heart disease. Healthy levels of HDL help your arteries and remove excess cholesterol from your blood, which is good for your heart. If your HDL levels are low, incorporate more exercise and movement into your routine; it can boost your HDL cholesterol, help manage your weight and support your hormonal health. Work with your doctor to monitor your levels and, if necessary, discuss medication in addition to healthy lifestyle changes.

Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome

Getting a handle on the risk factors for metabolic syndrome can help you take control of your health. Some of these to look out for are:

  • Obesity: Carrying excess weight, especially around your abdomen.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Not getting enough physical activity.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Family history of metabolic syndrome or related conditions.

You can make lifestyle changes to manage your risk factors. Simple changes like adding more variety to your diet, drinking water, and staying active can make a huge difference and reduce your risk for all the conditions we’ve discussed.

Complications Associated with Metabolic Syndrome

While troublesome, metabolic syndrome is not as concerning as its complications. Hypertension, high triglycerides and excess abdominal fat are precursors for Type II Diabetes and heart disease, including stroke or heart attack. That’s why monitoring your health and knowing your risk for metabolic syndrome is important. Knowing is the first step in taking action.

Managing Metabolic Syndrome

Once you know your risk factors and levels, you can incorporate daily lifestyle changes to help manage metabolic syndrome. Eat more fiber and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, with lots of protein and vegetables. Cut down on your sugar intake and make time to exercise and destress as much as possible. Get a great healthcare team, like Allara, to help create personalized care plans and support your journey. You can even reverse your metabolic syndrome with time, dedication, and patience.

And you don’t have to do it alone. Allara Health provides personalized treatment for hormonal, metabolic, and gynecological conditions that utilizes a holistic plan that merges nutrition, lifestyle, medication and supplementation, and ongoing, expert support to heal your body. Check and see if Allara’s treatment options are right for you.

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