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Metabolic Syndrome


Metabolic syndrome is a combination of conditions associated with obesity that may include high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids, and high fasting blood sugar.

Metabolic syndrome puts a person at risk for:

Metabolic syndrome may be characterized by:

  • Central obesity—high amount of fat around the waist
  • Low levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL or good) cholesterol
  • High levels of triglycerides—type of fat measured in the blood
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated fasting glucose level due to lower sensitivity to insulin
Coronary Artery Disease
Stereostatic Biopsy
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The exact cause of metabolic syndrome is not known. It believed to be due to a combination of factors, such as:

  • Genetic factors
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Poor diet

Risk Factors

Metabolic syndrome is more common in people who are Hispanic, Caucasian, or African American. Factors that may increase your chance of metabolic syndrome include:

  • Having disorders or conditions associated with metabolic disorder such as:
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Family history of the disorders listed above
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet
  • Unhealthy habits, such as smoking
  • Certain medications, such as atypical antipsychotics


Symptoms may include:

  • Frequent urination, and excessive thirst and hunger due to high blood sugars
  • Dark, velvety skin discoloration seen with obesity


You may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you have:

  • Waist measurement—greater than 40 inches in Caucasian men (35 inches in Asian men) or 35 inches in Caucasian women (30 inches in Asian women)
  • At least 2 of the following:
    • Fasting glucose level—greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL* (5.55 mmol/L)
    • Triglyceride level—greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L)
    • HDL cholesterol—less than 40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L) in men and less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women
    • Blood pressure—greater than or equal to 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)

*mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter of blood, mmol/L = millimoles per liter of blood


The treatment of metabolic syndrome involves:

  • Treatment of underlying causes, usually by diet and exercise
  • Treatment of specific metabolic abnormality

Gastric bypass or other weight loss surgery may be helpful to treat metabolic syndrome if obesity is severe. Talk to your doctor to learn if this is an option for you.

Treatment of Underlying Causes

  • Reducing excess weight by at least 10% in the next 6-12 months
  • Increasing physical activity to 30-60 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise four or more days per week as approved by your doctor
  • Lowering blood pressure to below 130/85 mmHg with diet, exercise, and possibly medication
  • Improving triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels through diet, exercise, and possibly medication

Treatment of Specific Metabolic Abnormality

  • High blood pressure—treated with anti-hypertensive medication and lifestyle changes
  • Insulin resistance—treated with diabetes medications and lifestyle changes
  • High cholesterol—treated with cholesterol-lowering medications called statins and lifestyle changes
  • Clotting tendency—treated with low-dose aspirin , especially in those with moderate to high cardiovascular risk


To reduce your chances of metabolic syndrome, take these steps:

  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to successfully quit.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight by eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Talk to your doctor how to increase your intake of specific minerals, such as magnesium.
  • Work up to 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise most days of the week.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. This means no more than 2 drinks daily for men, 1 drink daily for women.

Revision Information

  • American Heart Association


  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


  • Canadian Cardiovascular Society


  • Canadian Diabetes Association


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