"Metabolic syndrome" is a medical term referring to a confluence of symptoms that may not always cause distress themselves but that do indicate poor health and a dangerously high risk of other, serious problems later on. The syndrome occurs when someone is obese and has high blood pressure, high blood glucose, or a poor cholesterol profile. In particular, "central obesity," when fat is carried in the abdomen, is a diagnostic criterion. Elevated blood glucose itself indicates a diabetes precursor called insulin resistance. The relevant factors of the cholesterol profile ae triglycerides—high in metabolic syndrome—and HDL cholesterol, low in patients with the condition.
There is strong evidence of a genetic component to the risk of metabolic syndrome, meaning someone with a family history of the condition or of any of the diseases for which it is a risk factor should be careful, but there are a number of risk factors that can be controlled. Diet and exercise are factors; people who eat poorly—foods high in sugar or fat—and a sedentary lifestyle raise the risk of the condition the latter in women especially. People with certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome or sleep apnea, are especially prone to metabolic syndrome as well.
Because of the insulin connection, people with metabolic syndrome are likely to get type 2 diabetes. Many people with metabolic syndrome have what is called insulin resistance, wherein the body produces insulin normally but the cells are unable to respond to it properly, leading to elevated blood glucose levels. This is a factor in the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, but it is also a factor in the diagnosis of diabetes, the symptoms of which result from too much glucose in the blood. People with metabolic syndrome are also prone to getting heart disease.
The most common recommendation for people who have or are at risk of metabolic syndrome is to loose weight and exercise more—to address the causative factors of obesity and high blood pressure. It is particularly important for older people and people with a hereditary risk of the condition. A recent study found that eating a healthy breakfast can help avoid cravings for high fat foods later in the day, and help ward off metabolic syndrome.