Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome puts you at risk for:

These are the main characteristics of metabolic syndrome:

  • Central obesity — a high amount of fat around the waist
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • High triglycerides — a type of fat measured in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated fasting blood sugar

Are You at Risk?

Factors that increase your risk of metabolic syndrome include:

  • Mexican American, Caucasian and African American ethnicity
  • Obesity
  • Having disorders or conditions associated with metabolic disorder such as:
    • Diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Cholesterol problems
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Having a family history of the disorders listed above
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet
  • Unhealthy habits, such as smoking
  • Certain medication, such as atypical antipsychotics

How We Diagnose Metabolic Syndrome

We may diagnose you with metabolic syndrome if you have at least three of the following:

  • A waist measurement greater than 40 inches in Caucasian men (35 inches in Asian men) or 35 inches in Caucasian women (30 inches in Asian women)
  • Fasting glucose level greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL* (5.55 mmol/L)
  • Triglyceride level greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L)
  • HDL cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L) in men and less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women
  • Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)

*mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter blood, mmol/L = millimoles per liter blood

Treatment for Metabolic Syndrome

It's important to treat any underlying causes of metabolic syndrome. Treatment may include the following:

  • Reduce excess weight by at least 10%
  • Increase physical activity to 30-60 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise four or more days per week
  • Lower blood pressure to below 130/85 mmHg with diet, exercise and possibly medication
  • Improve triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels through diet, exercise and possibly medication
Gastric bypass or other weight-loss surgery may be helpful to treat metabolic syndrome.

Treatment of Specific Metabolic Abnormality

Medication can help you manage:

  • High blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance
  • High cholesterol
  • Clotting tendency

Metabolic Syndrome Prevention

To reduce your chances of metabolic syndrome, take these steps:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Exercise about 30 minutes at least four days per week.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.


Call us at 434.243.1000.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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