Top of the page
Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that may include too much fat around the waist, elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and low HDL cholesterol.
Together, this group of health problems increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
This syndrome raises your risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). It also increases your risk for diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle that includes eating too many calories, being inactive, and gaining weight, particularly around your waist. This lifestyle can lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which the body is unable to respond normally to insulin. If you have insulin resistance, your body cannot use insulin properly, and your blood sugar will begin to rise. Over time, this can lead to type 2 diabetes.
The things that make you more likely to develop metabolic syndrome include:
This means that your body cannot use insulin properly.
This means having too much fat around your waist.
Your chances of developing metabolic syndrome increase as you get older.
If you do not exercise, you are more likely to be obese and develop metabolic syndrome.
A hormone disorder such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition in which the female body produces too much of certain hormones, is associated with metabolic syndrome.
Having parents or close relatives with diabetes is associated with metabolic syndrome.
People of African, Hispanic, First Nations, Asian, and Pacific Islander descent are at higher risk than whites for type 2 diabetes.
Your doctor can diagnose metabolic syndrome with a physical examination, your medical history, and some simple blood tests.
You may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of these risk factors: footnote 1
Men: 102 cm (40 in.) or more
Women: 88 cm (35 in.) or more
Your waist measurement may be different. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
1.7 mmol/L or higher, or taking medicine for high triglycerides
Men: Less than 1.0 mmol/L
Women: Less than 1.3 mmol/L
Or taking medicine for low HDL cholesterol
130/85 mm Hg or higher, or taking medicine for high blood pressure
5.6 mmol/L or higher, or taking medicine for high blood sugar
These criteria are from Diabetes Canada. Other organizations may have different criteria for diagnosis.
The main goal of treatment is to reduce your risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) and diabetes. The first approaches in treating metabolic syndrome are:
Being overweight is a major risk factor for CAD. Weight loss lowers LDL cholesterol and reduces all of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome.
Lack of exercise is a major risk factor for CAD. Regular exercise can help improve cholesterol levels. It can also lower blood pressure, reduce insulin resistance, lower blood sugar levels, and improve heart function.
Then you and your doctor may discuss other treatments to lower LDL, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar.
CitationsDiabetes Canada Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee, et al. (2018). Definition, classification and diagnosis of diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 42(Suppl 1): S10–S15. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcjd.2017.10.003. Accessed October 15, 2018.
Current as of: April 13, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJennifer Hone MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Current as of: April 13, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Jennifer Hone MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.