Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a medical condition that involves multiple related conditions including obesity, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. People with metabolic syndrome are at a high risk for developing many serious medical complications including type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Due to the seriousness of this condition, early detection and intervention are critical.

What Are the Connections Between Metabolic Syndrome and Mental Health Conditions?

There are two connections between mental illness and metabolic syndrome:

  • Lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise and substance use. Poor diet, lack of exercise, heavy smoking and abuse of substances can increase the risk of medical illnesses.
  • The use of second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs), which can result in weight gain. This means that those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are at the highest risk for weight gain and metabolic syndrome because these medications are often used in treatment.

Other risk factors for metabolic syndrome include:

  • People with a family history of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • People of certain ethnicities, including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans.

Preventing and Treating Metabolic Syndrome

Selecting a medication should involve a careful review of the risks, as well as the benefits, the medicine offers. Some people who are taking SGAs may also find that medications used in the treatment of diabetes may be helpful in preventing metabolic syndrome. This is a possible treatment option that can be discussed when seeing your psychiatrist or other health care provider.

Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent and detect metabolic syndrome.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent developing metabolic syndrome. A healthy lifestyle includes the following:

  • Regular checkups with a primary care physician. A doctor can check your weight, along with a measurement of your waist circumference and perform blood tests.
  • Eating a healthy diet. A diet that is low in salt and fat and includes fruit and vegetables can help prevent obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Regular exercise. Daily walking, running or another form of aerobic exercise can help you lose weight and keep your body healthy.
  • Limiting alcohol, drug and nicotine use. These substances can change the way that the body digests and metabolizes food. Quitting smoking can very quickly reduce risk of developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Get Peer Support

Doctors, a NAMI Affiliate or community mental health program may offer suggestions of places to find peer support. Many communities have walking groups, nutritional and fitness groups or other peer support programs that can be helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Finding a good fit for each person is the key to keeping a person involved. Some places to start looking for support are Peertrainer, Weight Watchers and In Shape.