What is metabolic syndrome?

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

The metabolic syndrome is a group of obesity-related risk factors for coronary heart disease and diabetes. A person has the metabolic syndrome if he or she has three or more of the following risk factors:

A large waistline. For men, this means a waist measurement of 40 inches or more. For women, it means a waist measurement of 35 inches or more [1].
High triglycerides or taking medication to treat high triglycerides. A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher is considered high [1].
Low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol or taking medications to treat low HDL. For men, low HDL cholesterol is below 40 mg/dL. For women, it is below 50 mg/dL [1].
High blood pressure or taking medications to treat high blood pressure. High blood pressure is 130 mm Hg or higher for systolic blood pressure (the top number) or 85 mm Hg or higher for diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) [1].
High fasting blood glucose (sugar) or taking medications to treat high blood sugar. This means a fasting blood sugar of 100 mg/dL or higher [1].
A person with metabolic syndrome has approximately twice the risk for coronary heart disease and five times the risk for type 2 diabetes [1]. It is estimated that 27 percent of American adults have the metabolic syndrome [2].

How is it linked to overweight?

The metabolic syndrome is strongly linked to obesity, especially abdominal obesity. Other risk factors are physical inactivity, insulin resistance, genetics, and old age.

Obesity is a risk factor for the metabolic syndrome because it raises blood pressure and triglycerides, lowers good cholesterol, and contributes to insulin resistance. Excess fat around the abdomen carries even higher risks.

What can weight loss do?

It may be possible to prevent the metabolic syndrome with weight management and physical activity. For patients who already have the syndrome, losing weight and being physically active may help prevent or delay the development of diabetes, coronary heart disease, or other complications.

Individuals who are overweight or obese and who have the metabolic syndrome should aim to lose 10 percent of their body weight and do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day. Quitting smoking, eating healthfully, and taking prescription medications for conditions such as high blood pressure or low HDL cholesterol may also be recommended. You can learn more about the metabolic syndrome from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.