The Threat of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that greatly raises your risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors

If you have 3 or more of these factors, you are said to have metabolic syndrome:

  • A high level of triglycerides, or 150 mg/dL or more

  • A low level of HDL ("good") cholesterol,

  • Abdominal obesity, or a waist circumference 40 or greater for men, or 35 or greater for women 

  • High blood pressure, or 130/85 mmHg or greater

  • High fasting blood sugar that is classified as prediabetes, 100 mg  to 125 mg/dL, or diabetes, 126 mg/dL or casual blood sugar greater than 200 mg/dL

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, if you have metabolic syndrome, you are 2 times more likely to develop heart disease. Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is 5 times greater if you have metabolic syndrome.

Making changes

Yet there's good news. Lifestyle changes can prevent or reverse some of these risk factors, if you are among the 35% of adults who already has metabolic syndrome.

Although you can't change how genes contribute to your risk factors, you can do a lot to lower your risk. Eat a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables, for instance, and most days get 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise that raises your heart rate. Get to and maintain a healthy weight.