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Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of health conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Having just one of these conditions alone does not indicate metabolic syndrome.

Causes Metabolic syndrome is closely linked to obesity, inactivity, and insulin resistance. For people with insulin resistance, cells don’t respond normally to the insulin hormone, and prevent glucose from being able to enter cells – essential to be used as fuel. This causes the body to churn out more and more insulin in an effort to control the glucose levels in the blood.

SymptomsMost of the disorders associated with metabolic syndrome have no symptoms, although a large waist circumference is a visible indicator. If your blood sugar is very high, you might have signs and symptoms of diabetes — including increased thirst and urination, fatigue, and blurred vision. Your doctor can help you evaluate your risk.

Diagnosis If you have three or more of these traits (or are taking medication to control them), you have metabolic syndrome.

  • Large waist circumference — 35+ inches (89 centimeters) for women and 40+ inches (102 centimeters) for men
  • High triglyceride level — 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), or higher of this type of fat found in blood
  • Reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — less than 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) in men or less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women of this "good" cholesterol
  • Increased blood pressure — 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher
  • Elevated fasting blood sugar — 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or higher

TreatmentIf aggressive lifestyle changes including diet and exercise aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to help control your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose.