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Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome means a condition where the same person has several metabolic disorders that create a health risk.

Metabolic syndrome is a metabolic disorder characterized by the presence of abdominal obesity, disturbances in sugar and lipid metabolism, and typically elevated blood pressure in the same individual. The abbreviation often used for metabolic syndrome is MetS (MBO in Finnish). In Finland, approximately one in three middle-aged men and one in four middle-aged women has metabolic syndrome.

The underlying factor of the metabolic syndrome is a genetic predisposition combined with environmental factors and lifestyle choices leading to weight gain. In addition to the subcutaneous fatty tissue, overweight and extra fat build up in the abdominal cavity and liver. Inflammatory cells form in the fatty tissue, resulting in a low-level inflammation. The result is insulin resistance, i.e. the reduced effect of insulin in the body. Over the years, the ability of the pancreas to increase insulin production may be reduced. When blood sugar reaches diabetes levels, the diagnosis is type 2 diabetes.

You have metabolic syndrome if you have three of the following five disorders:

  • The waistline is over 100 cm for a man or over 90 cm for a woman.

  • Your blood fat level or triglyceride is over 1.7 mmol/l.

  • The good or HDL cholesterol is below 1.0 mmol/l for a man or below 1.3 mmol/l for a woman.

  • Your blood pressure is 130/85 mmHg or higher.

  • Your fasting blood sugar level is 5.6 mmol/l or higher.

Typical issues related to a metabolic syndrome include the build-up of fat in the liver and pancreas, skeletal muscles or myocardium as well as an increased blood urate level, changes in the blood coagulation factors and sleep apnoea.

A person with type 1 diabetes may also develop a metabolic syndrome, if they gain weight or have fat build up in the abdominal cavity and liver. In this case, the need for insulin injected to correct insulin deficiency increases.

Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases two to threefold.

Updated 30.9.2023