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What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

To have metabolic syndrome, a person must have at least 3 of the following conditions:

  • Obesity with a large belly – Obese people are defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. A “large belly” is a waist measurement greater than 40 inches for men or greater than 35 inches for women.

  • High blood pressure – Blood pressure measurements consist of 2 numbers. For example, your blood pressure might be "140 over 90." The top (systolic) number reflects the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is contracting. The bottom (diastolic) number reflects the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is relaxed. You have high blood pressure if:

1. Systolic blood pressure is 130 or higher

2. Diastolic blood pressure is 85 or higher

3. You take medicine for high blood pressure

  • High blood sugar – All the cells in your body need sugar to work normally. A hormone called insulin allows sugar from your food to enter your cells. However, if there is not enough insulin produced or the body is insensitive to insulin, sugar accumulates in the blood and the body is not able to use it. “High blood sugar” is considered to be greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL. This “fasting” blood sugar level is measured after you have not had anything to eat or drink (except water) for 8 hours.

  • High triglycerides – Triglycerides are fat-like substances in the blood. “High triglycerides” are higher than 150 mg/dL.

  • Low HDL cholesterol – HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is considered to be "good cholesterol." High HDL levels lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Low HDL cholesterol is less than 40 mg/dL for men or less than 50 mg/dL for women.

Because “metabolic syndrome” simply groups the above conditions, the treatment for metabolic syndrome is no different than the treatment for each of the conditions. The best and safest treatment for reducing these conditions is exercise and a healthy diet.

Are there tests for metabolic syndrome?

Yes. As part of their physical exam, your healthcare provider will:

  • Take your blood pressure.

  • Measure your height and weight to calculate your BMI.

  • Measure your waist circumference, which is the widest part of your belly.

  • Take blood tests to measure your blood sugar and blood lipids (triglycerides and cholesterol).

Can metabolic syndrome be prevented?

You can lower your chances of developing metabolic syndrome by:

  • Losing weight if you are overweight

  • Eating substantial fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products, and not a lot of meat or fatty foods

  • Walking or doing some form of daily physical activity

  • Quitting smoking, if you smoke

How is metabolic syndrome treated?

Treatments include:

  • Diet – Healthy diets that can help you lose weight include:

1. The Mediterranean diet – This diet is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains,

and olive oil. It can help to lower weight, blood pressure, lipids, and improve blood

sugar levels.

2. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet – This diet is low in salt

and fat. It includes 4 to 5 servings each of fruits and vegetables and 2 to 3 servings

of low-fat dairy products per day. This diet can lower blood pressure, weight, lipids,

and blood sugar.

3. A high-fiber diet – Increasing dietary fiber (to at least 30 grams daily) can lower

blood pressure and weight. Fiber is found in beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits.

  • Exercise – The recommended amount of exercise is at least 30 minutes a day, on 5 or more days of the week is the recommended amount of exercise.

  • Medications – You may be prescribed various medications to lower blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar. Talk to your doctor for more information.

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