About 34 percent of U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome, but the symptoms are so common they can be easily ignored. If you notice any of the following signs of metabolic syndrome, talk to your doctor.
Your pants are oversized
Look at the tag in your jeans—if it says a number greater than 40 inches, you’re in trouble. Central obesity, where the weight settles around your midsection, is the most important sign that metabolic syndrome could be in your future, says Haitham Ahmed, MD, MPH, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
“A waist circumference of more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women is the biggest predictor,” he says. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors (abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high levels of blood triglycerides, and low levels of HDL cholesterol) that raises the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health problems. If you have three or more, you have metabolic syndrome.
You’re thirsty all the time and can’t stop peeing
If you can’t quench your thirst and keep running to the bathroom, it may be a sign that you have high blood sugar, a risk factor of metabolic syndrome. “Most people don’t know what their blood sugar levels are until they’re really abnormal,” says Dr. Ahmed. Aside from diabetes, stress from an illness, eating too much, or not exercising enough can lead to insulin resistance.
You have a headache, feel dizzy, or have blurry vision
“Blood pressure is called the silent killer because you usually don’t notice anything until it’s extremely elevated,” says Dr. Ahmed. Worrisome signs that your blood pressure might be sky high is a headache, dizziness, blurry vision, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
“If you feel any of those signs, seek medical care rapidly,” he says. Blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher is the ratio to look for if you’re concerned about metabolic syndrome.
You don’t follow a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, fish, and lean white meat is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight, a critical first step to staving off the risk factors that could lead to metabolic syndrome. “This diet has been shown over and over again in all different conditions to be very effective if you stick to it,” says Dr. Ahmed.
You should also focus on reducing your sodium intake and staying below the recommended daily allotment of 2,300 mg.
You don’t hit the gym
“There’s no better strategy for preventing cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and cholesterol than losing weight and physical activity,” says Dr. Ahmed. Strive to get the 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week recommended by the American Heart Association.
Your good cholesterol levels are dangerously low
If your blood work comes back with the news that your good HDL cholesterol levels are too low, take note. HDL levels below 50 mg for women and 40 mg for men is a risk factor of metabolic syndrome.