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Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that 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.
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.
If you have metabolic syndrome, you have several disorders of the metabolism at the same time, including obesity (usually around your waist), high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and resistance to insulin.
This syndrome raises your risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), even beyond that caused by high LDL cholesterol alone.footnote 1 It also increases your risk for diabetes.
The things that make you more likely to develop metabolic syndrome include:footnote 2, footnote 1
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 the risk factors listed in the table below. Note: These criteria were developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Other organizations may have different criteria for diagnosis.
Central obesity or abdominal obesity (waist measurement)
People of European descent
Men: 94 cm or more; women: 80 cm or more
Men: 90 cm or more; women: 80 cm or more
People of South and Central American descent
People of African descent
People of Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent
Plus two of the following
Higher than 1.7 mmol/L
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
Men: Less than 1.03 mmol/L
Women: Less than 1.3 mmol/L
Higher than 130/85 mm Hg or taking medicine for high blood pressure
Fasting blood sugar
Higher than 5.6 mmol/L
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:
CitationsGrundy SM, et al. (2005). Diagnosis and management of the metabolic syndrome: An American Heart Association/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Scientific Statement. Circulation, 112(17): 2735–2752.Genest J (2015). Lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular disease. In DL Mann et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 10th ed., pp. 980–1000. Philadelphia: Saunders.Other Works ConsultedAlberti K, et al. (2009). Harmonizing the metabolic syndrome: A joint interim statement of the International Diabetes Federation Task Force of Epidemiology and Prevention; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart Association; World Heart Federation; International Atherosclerosis Society; and International Association for the Study of Obesity. Circulation, 120(16): 1640–1645.Brownlee M, et al. (2011). Complications of diabetes mellitus. In S Melmed et al., eds., Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th ed., pp. 1462–1551. Philadelphia: Saunders.Eckel RH (2012). The metabolic sydrome. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principals of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1992–1997. New York: McGraw-Hill.Hawkins M, Rossetti L (2005). Insulin resistance and its role in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. In Joslin's Diabetes Mellitus, 14th ed., pp. 425–448. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. Masharani U, German MS (2011). Pancreatic hormones and diabetes mellitus. In DG Gardner, D Shoback, eds., Greenspan's Basic and Clinical Endocrinology, 9th ed., pp. 573–655. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: March 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineBrian D. O'Brien MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJennifer Hone MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Current as of: March 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Jennifer Hone MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
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