What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.
The term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body’s normal functioning. Risk factors are traits, conditions, or habits that increase your chance of developing a disease.
In this article, “heart disease” refers to coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD (also called coronary artery disease, abbreviated CAD) is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary (heart) arteries.
Plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, reducing blood flow to your heart muscle. This can lead to chest pain, a heart attack, heart damage, or even death.
Metabolic Risk Factors
The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You can have any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
A Large Waistline
Having a large waistline means that you carry excess weight around your waist (abdominal obesity). This is also called having an “apple-shaped” figure. Your doctor will measure your waist to find out whether you have a large waistline.
A waist measurement of 35 inches or more for women or 40 inches or more for men is a metabolic risk factor. A large waistline means you’re at increased risk for heart disease and other health problems.
A High Triglyceride Level
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher (or being on medicine to treat high triglycerides) is a metabolic risk factor. (The mg/dL is milligrams per deciliter—the units used to measure triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar.)
A Low HDL Cholesterol Level
HDL cholesterol sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries.
An HDL cholesterol level of less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men (or being on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol) is a metabolic risk factor.
High Blood Pressure
A blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher (or being on medicine to treat high blood pressure) is a metabolic risk factor. (The mmHg is millimeters of mercury—the units used to measure blood pressure.)
If only one of your two blood pressure numbers is high, you’re still at risk for metabolic syndrome.
High Fasting Blood Sugar
A normal fasting blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL. A fasting blood sugar level between 100–125 mg/dL is considered prediabetes. A fasting blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or higher is considered diabetes.
A fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL or higher (or being on medicine to treat high blood sugar) is a metabolic risk factor.
About 85 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes—the most common type of diabetes—also have metabolic syndrome. These people have a much higher risk for heart disease than the 15 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes without metabolic syndrome.