Metabolic Syndrome: Causes, Risk factors, Diagnosis


Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic conditions that can increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. These conditions include:

  • Increased blood pressure (greater than 130/85 mmHg)
  • High blood sugar levels (insulin resistance)
  • Excess fat around the waist
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Low levels of good cholesterol, or HDL

Metabolic syndrome is also known as Syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, and dysmetabolic syndrome.

If you have only one of the conditions, that doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome. But each of these conditions may increase the chance of getting a serious disease.

According to a report of the American Heart Association (AHA), about 23 percent of adults currently have metabolic syndrome.


The exact cause of metabolic syndrome is unknown. But it’s closely associated with overweight or obesity and inactivity. Another main factor is a condition called insulin resistance which can cause the rise of glucose levels in the blood because the body is not able to use insulin sufficiently to lower it. Genetic and lifestyles, such as diet, activity, and perhaps interrupted sleep patterns contribute to insulin resistance together.

Risk factors

Some factors may increase the risk of having metabolic syndrome, including:

  • Age: The risk increases with a person’s age.
  • Race: Mexican-Americans seem to be at the greatest risk.
  • Obesity: Central obesity, or excess fat around the middle and upper parts of the body increases the risk.
  • Diabetes: Having diabetes during pregnancy or having a family history of type 2 diabetes increases the risk.
  • Other disease: Cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or polycystic ovary syndrome also makes the risk higher.


Conditions related to metabolic syndrome usually have no symptoms, though patients typically have a large waist circumference. If you have a high blood sugar, you may experience increased thirst and urination, fatigue and blurred vision which are symptoms of diabetes.


The doctor will make a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome if you have 3 or more of the following:

  • A waistline of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women (measured across the belly).
  • A blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or are taking blood pressure medications.
  • A triglyceride level above 150 mg/dl.
  • A fasting blood glucose (sugar) level greater than 100 mg/dl or are taking glucose-lowering medications.
  • A high-density lipoprotein level (HDL) less than 40 mg/dl (men) or under 50 mg/dl (women).


Aggressive lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, may help reduce the risk of developing complications. If it’s not effective enough, medications will be recommended to help control the blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood glucose. Low-dose aspirin sometimes may also be prescribed to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.