Metabolic Syndrome X
Metabolic syndrome X is a group of four risk factors that can increase your chance of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease...

Table of Contents
powered by healthline

Average Ratings

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of five risk factors that can increase your chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The five risk factors include:

  • increased blood pressure (greater than 130/85)
  • high blood sugar levels (insulin resistance)
  • excess fat around the waist
  • high triglyceride levels
  • low levels of good cholesterol, or HDL

Having one of these risk factors does not mean that you have metabolic syndrome. However, having one of these risk factors will increase your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. Having three or more of these factors will result in a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome and will increase your risk of health complications even more.

The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that 35 percent of adults currently have this condition.

What Are the Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome?

The risk factors for metabolic syndrome are related to obesity. The two most important risk factors for developing the condition are defined by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute as:

  • central obesity or excess fat around the middle and upper parts of the body
  • insulin resistance, which makes it difficult for the body to use sugar

There are other factors that can increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome. One factor is your age. Less than 10 percent of people in their twenties have the syndrome, but 40 percent of people in their sixties have it. Other risk factors are not getting enough exercise and having other family members with the syndrome. Women who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a metabolic disorder that affects hormones and the reproductive system, have an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

How Is Metabolic Syndrome Diagnosed?

To diagnose metabolic syndrome, your doctor will need to perform several different tests. The results of these tests will be used to look for three or more signs of the disorder. Tests ordered to diagnose metabolic syndrome include:

  • measurement of waist circumference
  • fasting blood triglycerides
  • cholesterol levels
  • blood pressure
  • fasting glucose level

Abnormalities noted on three or more of these tests will indicate the presence of metabolic syndrome.

What Are the Complications of Metabolic Syndrome?

The complications that may result from metabolic syndrome are frequently serious and long-term (chronic). They include:

  • hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • diabetes
  • heart attack
  • kidney disease
  • stroke
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • peripheral artery disease
  • cardiovascular disease

If diabetes develops, this can place you at risk for the development of additional health complications including:

  • eye damage (retinopathy)
  • nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • kidney disease
  • amputation of limbs

How Is Metabolic Syndrome Treated?

If you are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, the goal of treatment will be to reduce your risk of developing further health complications. Your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes that may include losing between seven and 10 percent of your current weight and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five to seven days a week. Your doctor may also suggest that you quit smoking.

Your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or blood sugar. He or she also may prescribe low-dose aspirin to help reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack.

What Is the Outlook for Patients with Metabolic Syndrome?

The outlook for people who develop metabolic syndrome can be quite good if symptoms of the disorder are managed. People who take their doctor’s advice, eat right, exercise, stop smoking, and lose weight will reduce their chances of developing serious health problems such as a heart attack or stroke.

Although treatment to reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome will help reduce health complications, most people with this condition will have a long-term risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you develop this condition, you will need to be monitored by your doctor to help prevent serious health problems including heart attack or stroke.

How Can Metabolic Syndrome Be Prevented?

Preventing metabolic syndrome is certainly possible. Maintaining a healthy waist circumference, healthy blood pressure levels, and healthy cholesterol levels reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome. Exercise and weight loss can aid in these efforts and help reduce the risk of insulin resistance.

In particular, you should eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You should also get moving. Regular physical activity will reduce your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels. The key is to try to maintain a healthy weight. (Talk to your healthcare providers before beginning an exercise program or radically changing your diet.)

Prevention of metabolic syndrome will also require that you have regular physical exams. Your doctor can measure your blood pressure and complete blood work that may indicate the early development of metabolic syndrome. Early diagnosis of the condition and treatment will reduce health complications over the long term.

Written by: Darla Burke
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: Peggy Pletcher, RD, CDE
Published: Aug 15, 2012
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
Top of page
General Drug Tools
General Drug Tools view all tools
Tools for
Healthy Living
Tools for Healthy Living view all tools
Search Tools
Search Tools view all tools
Insurance Plan Tools
Insurance Plan Tools view all tools

What is a reference number?

When you register on this site, you are assigned a reference number. This number contains your profile information and helps UnitedHealthcare identify you when you come back to the site.

If you searched for a plan on this site in a previous session, you might already have a reference number. This number will contain any information you saved about plans and prescription drugs. To use that reference number, click on the "Change or view saved information" link below.

You can retrieve information from previous visits to this site, such as saved drug lists and Plan Selector information.