Are you apple shaped? Metabolic Syndrome is a possibility

This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions. The editor of the blog is Dr Cristina Romete.

Apple shaped bodies, carry more weight around their waist and unlike the pear-shaped ones, have a higher risk for metabolic syndrome and all its consequences. An apple-shaped body is a classic signal for metabolic syndrome.

If you are concerned about your weight, its distribution and you would like to be assessed, staff at ROC Clinic are highly trained in managing individuals like you.

What is it metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of common conditions rather than a single illness, that when occurring together can increase your likelihood of developing

  • cardiovascular disease,
  • diabetes and
  • liver dysfunction.

Metabolic syndrome has also been implicated as a potential risk factor for many other conditions including subfertility, asthma, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer.

Also known as ‘Syndrome X’ or ‘insulin resistance syndrome’, it is thought to affect between 10-30% of adults in Europe. This figure rises sharply with age, and in the USA almost half of people aged 60 years or more have metabolic syndrome.

Why is metabolic syndrome important?

Cardiovascular disease remains a major cause of death worldwide.

In general, cardiovascular disease results from the build-up of fatty plaques in the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a narrowing or blockage of the blood supply to the vital organs including the heart and brain, causing heart attacks and/or strokes respectively. In England and Wales, more people die from heart attacks and strokes combined than any other disease.

What causes metabolic syndrome?

It is unknown if there is a single abnormality that triggers the development of metabolic syndrome. However, certainly, the ‘obesity epidemic’ including the overeating of processed foods and inactive lifestyle, combined with a genetic susceptibly are contributing factors.

Increasing evidence suggests that insulin resistance is the main abnormality linking all the components of metabolic syndrome together. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which is required for the correct metabolism of sugar. When our body becomes resistant to insulin, sugar is not processed in the usual manner and is instead stored as fat particularly beneath the skin of our abdomen leading to a high waist circumference, but also wrapped around our vital organs inside (visceral fat). It is also known that in metabolic syndrome there is widespread inflammation in the body similar to that when you are fighting an infection, and an increased tendency for your blood to form clots.

What are the symptoms of metabolic syndrome?

Typically, patients are asymptomatic and metabolic syndrome is detected incidentally on routine physical examination or blood tests for other reasons. Common risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or obese with an increased waist-to-hip ratio, a diet rich in carbohydrates and saturated fat and raised blood pressure.

How is metabolic syndrome diagnosed?

During a full consultation, we will take an extensive medical history to elicit any symptoms you may have, as well as any contributing factors from your family background, then perform a thorough cardiovascular physical examination. Typically, we will also take blood tests at the same appointment too, checking amongst others for cholesterol, diabetes, liver and kidney function. We will also perform an ECG and may order additional rests such as a chest x-ray or abdominal ultrasound.

The modern 21st century medicine approach is on maintaining health rather than just treating disease. In other words, early detection and the implementation of appropriate measures to prevent future illness developing in the first place. This is particularly important in metabolic syndrome as there is not usually one specific symptom. Angiodefender® is a new way to help calculate your cardiovascular risk. The endothelium is the inner lining of our blood vessels, which regulates blood flow through the arteries. It is now known that damage to the endothelium is an important early step in the development of atherosclerosis. The Angiodefender® works by measuring the damage to the endothelium, thereby providing an early warning system for the development of cardiovascular disease. The Angiodefender® helps identify patients who have no symptoms; including those with early-stage cardiovascular disease, before plaque formation or with normal blood-pressure and blood test ranges.

Management of metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome can be prevented or reversed, using a holistic approach, with an initial focus on incorporating intensive lifestyle measures.

This would involve modifying your food, to eat a more healthy and balanced diet (to aid control of your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels), exercising, losing weight, smoking cessation, abstaining (or cutting down at least!) on alcohol, and stress management.

Medications that may be prescribed include those to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, or aid weight loss. In some severe cases patients may require surgery to achieve their weight loss.

The first step is risk stratification, and to learn where you personally sit on the scale. Following that, we will assist you using a holistic approach to execute your medical goals, with retests to show objective evidence of your improvements in health.

If you would like to know more about metabolic syndrome, please do get in touch.

Our doctors and dietitians will be able to help and develop personalised plans for improving your health.

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