Metabolic Syndrome - Risk Factors for Diabetes and Heart Disease

What is Metabolic Syndrome or Pre-Diabetes?

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What is metabolic syndrome? It's a term that describes a cluster of disorders that together are an indicator of increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.

Insulin resistance is the cornerstone of metabolic syndrome. The pancreas makes insulin and sends it into the blood to help the cells in the body use the glucose that was produced during digestion. The cells use the glucose for energy.

If the cells are resistant to insulin, then blood glucose levels increase.

Some people are genetically predisposed to developing insulin resistance. When this predisposition is combined with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, the cluster of conditions that make up metabolic syndrome can develop. That puts you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and several cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. There are five major components to a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. If you have three or more of these risk factors, you are considered to have metabolic syndrome.


Health FactorsLevels Indicating Risk
Obesity: "Apple" versus "Pear" ShapeWaist Circumference: greater than 40 inches for men, greater than 35 inches for women
Triglycerides150 mg/dl or more
HDL cholesterolgreater than 40 mg/dl for men and greater than 50 mg/dl for women
Blood Pressure130/85 mmHg or higher
Fasting Blood Glucose100 mg/dl or more

Obesity in Metabolic Syndrome

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. Many doctors feel that the BMI is a more accurate determination of weight measurement than actual weight in pounds. Lowering your BMI and losing just 5 percent to 7 percent of your body weight can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes significantly.

Another measurement of obesity is the presence of abdominal fat. Generally, a waist circumference of 40 inches or greater for men and 35 inches or greater for women is an indicator of risk for metabolic syndrome.

High Blood Pressure in Metabolic Syndrome

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80, according to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. A blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 can be considered pre-hypertension and a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher puts you in the high blood pressure or hypertension range. Lowering your intake of salt, losing weight, and taking blood pressure medication can all help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.

Elevated Fasting Blood Glucose in Metabolic Syndrome

A fasting blood glucose test ordered by your doctor helps pinpoint where your levels are. A blood glucose level between 70 mg/dl and 100 mg/dl is considered normal. Fasting blood glucose between 100 and 110 mg/dl is a sign of metabolic syndrome.

An elevated fasting blood glucose that is not high enough to be considered diabetes (126mg/dl) is also described as "pre-diabetes."

High Triglycerides in Metabolic Syndrome

Triglycerides are a kind of fat. When you eat food, your body uses what it needs for immediate energy and stores the rest in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides hang out in your fat cells, but they also circulate in your blood, where they can be measured by a simple blood test. A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dl or more is a symptom of metabolic syndrome.

Low HDL Cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) in Metabolic Syndrome

Your HDLs are the "good cholesterol" in your blood. They clean out the LDLs (low density lipoproteins or "bad" cholesterol) in your blood. When you don't have many HDLs, the LDLs can run rampant, causing plaque build up on your artery walls and putting a strain on your heart and circulatory system. Watching your cholesterol intake and eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables help raise your HDLs.

Metabolic Syndrome Raises Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself, but it is an important assessment of your risk for developing serious cardiovascular diseases down the road. Metabolic syndrome increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. Both metabolic syndrome and diabetes increase your risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which can result in developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Eating right and staying active, and being mindful of your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight can help reverse metabolic syndrome and help keep you from ever developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.


"Description of High Blood Pressure." NHLBI Disease and Conditions Index. September 10, 2015. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

"Blood sugar test" Medline Plus. 8/5/2014. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

"Symptoms and Diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome." American Heart Association. 05/14/2014.

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