Metabolic Syndrome – Risk Factors, Diagnosis, And Management

Metabolic syndrome is affecting people at an alarming rate in America. More than 50 million people have become its victim, till date. This syndrome puts people at a high risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which includes peripheral vascular disease, stroke, and coronary heart disease.

Risk Factors

There are certain metabolic risk factors that mark metabolic syndrome in a person. They are:

  • Accumulation of fat tissues in the abdomen area leading to abdominal obesity.
  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides, high LDL (bad cholesterol), low HDL (good cholesterol). All these lead to buildup of plaque in the walls of artery. This condition is called atherogenic dyslipidemia.
  • Inability of the body to utilize insulin properly leading to insulin resistance.
  • High fibrinogen in the blood. This is prothrombotic state.
  • High levels of C-reactive protein in blood. This is proinflammatory state.

Conditions like aging, sedentary lifestyle, genetic predisposition, and hormonal imbalance are also linked to this medical condition.

Out of the above-mentioned risk factors, insulin resistance and abdominal obesity are the dominant ones. Insulin resistance is regarded as a generalized metabolic disorder. In this condition, the body becomes incapable of utilizing insulin efficiently. That”s the reason why the second name of metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance syndrome.

Some people suffer from insulin resistance due to factors like excess fat and sedentary lifestyle, which can be checked and controlled. On the other hand, some people get such resistance due to genetic predisposition, which cannot be checked. It has been observed that people with insulin resistance suffer from abdominal obesity. Scientists are yet to solve the mystery of biologic mechanisms between metabolic risk factors and insulin resistance at molecular level.


Adult Treatment Panel (ATP III) of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) has established certain criteria for diagnosing metabolic syndrome. This is a widely accepted mode of diagnosis today, as no standard criteria have been set up till date.

A recommendation has been made by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as well as the American Heart Association, which states that metabolic syndrome, can be detected by the presence of 3 or more of the following conditions:

  • Increased waist circumference — in men, 40 inches or more and in women, 35 inches and more.
  • High level of triglycerides — 150mg/dL or more.
  • Low level of good cholesterol (HDL) — in men, 40mg/dL or less and in women, 50mg/dL.
  • High fasting glucose — 100mg/dL or more.
  • High blood pressure — 130/85 mm Hg or more.

Management Of Metabolic Syndrome

As per the American Heart Association, management of this syndrome should be directed towards alleviating the risk of Type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease. The first step is managing cardiovascular disease. For this, doctors recommend lifestyle and dietary changes to bring LDL, glucose, and blood pressure to normal levels and to increase HDL. Smokers and alcoholics should quit their habits.

Lifestyle therapies help in long term as well as in short term management of metabolic syndrome. This is because diabetes and most of the heart diseases are related to lifestyle. Therefore, it is recommended to:

  • Bring down the body weight to a healthy level. Body Mass Index (BMI) should be less than 25 kg/m2.
  • Take a healthy diet that has less saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans-fats.
  • Remain active and do moderate exercise for half an hour, every day.

One of the biggest threats of the modern world, after nuclear war, is unhealthy lifestyle. It has resulted in many diseases. If only people realize the dangers of processed foods, metabolic syndrome can be easily overcome.


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