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What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is the term given to a group of risk factors which, when present, greatly increase an individual's risk of developing coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes. These factors are insulin resistance (or high blood glucose levels), hypertension, abnormal blood lipids, and a large waistline, also known as central adiposity.

What causes metabolic syndrome?

Some of the main contributors to metabolic syndrome are living an inactive lifestyle, being overweight or obese, insulin resistance, growing older, and genetics. Some causes are modifiable including inactivity, weight, and insulin resistance. Other factors are non-modifiable, including genetics and growing older. 

What are the symptoms of metabolic syndrome?

The easiest symptom of metabolic syndrome to detect is a large waistline. For women, a waistline of 35 inches or more, and for men, a waistline of 40 inches or more, is considered a large waistline. The remaining symptoms of insulin resistance, hypertension, and abnormal blood lipids can be evaluated by your healthcare team. 

How is metabolic syndrome diagnosed?

If you’re concerned about metabolic syndrome, it is best to talk to your doctor. A physical exam and blood tests are required to diagnose this condition. Your doctor will specifically measure blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, waistline, and blood lipids, including HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Is metabolic syndrome reversible?

The goal of treatment for metabolic syndrome is to prevent further complications, particularly heart disease. Heart-healthy lifestyle changes are recommended, and may improve your condition or prevent complications. Medications may be recommended to help with risk factors. It is important to work with your healthcare team to determine the best course of treatment and if your risk factors may be reversible.

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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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