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Metabolic Syndrome

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Metabolic Syndrome

(Syndrome X; Insulin Resistance Syndrome; Dysmetabolic Syndrome)


Metabolic syndrome is a mix of things that increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. There are at least 3 of these:

  • High blood pressure
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Large waistline
  • Low HDL (good) cholesterol
  • High fasting blood glucose
Coronary Artery Disease.

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The cause of metabolic syndrome is not clear. Genes, diet, and activity level may all play a role.

Risk Factors

Metabolic syndrome is more common in people with:


There are no symptoms for metabolic syndrome itself. Too much weight in the belly is one risk factor.


Many of these tests are done as part of routine check ups. Metabolic syndrome is test results show 3 or more of these:

  • Fasting glucose level—100 mg/dL* (5.55 mmol/L) or higher
  • Triglyceride level—150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) or higher
  • HDL cholesterol—40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L) or less in men and less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women
  • Blood pressure—130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher
  • Waist that is 40 inches or more in men or 35 inches or more in women

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


The goal of treatment is to cut the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Steps may treat issues that caused metabolic syndrome or other heart disease risk factors. Lifestyle changes may play a large role. Medicine may be needed if lifestyle changes are not enough to lower risk.


To decrease the risk of developing metabolic syndrome:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Reach and keep a healthy weight.
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

Lifestyle Habits

The first step is often lifestyle changes. This may include:

  • 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 5 or more days per week, should use effort level that leads to increase in heart rate and breathing
  • Healthy diet choices such as:
    • Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
    • Lean meats, poultry, and fish
    • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
    • Limit or avoid processed foods or other foods high in saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugar
    • Proper portion sizes
  • Not smoking or vaping
  • Weight loss—goal to decrease waist size below risk level and keep weight off
  • Getting 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep each night

These steps can help to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They can also affect problems with insulin which can lead to diabetes. These changes can make large changes for some people. Others may need medical care.





  • Explore metabolic syndrome. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ms.
  • Life's essential 8. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/lifes-essential-8.
  • Metabolic syndrome. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MetabolicSyndrome/Metabolic-Syndrome_UCM_002080_SubHomePage.jsp.
  • Metabolic syndrome in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/metabolic-syndrome-in-adults .
  • Samson SL, Garber AJ. Metabolic syndrome. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2014 Mar;43(1):1-23.
  • 1/22/2015 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113812/Metabolic-syndrome-in-adults : Xu Y, Shen S, Sun L, et al. Metabolic syndrome risk after gestational diabetes: Asystematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e87863.
  • 7/15/2015 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113812/Metabolic-syndrome-in-adults : Dibaba DT, Xun P, Fly AD, Yokota K, He K. Dietary magnesium intake and risk of metabolic syndrome: A meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2014;31(11):1301-1309.


  • Mark Arredondo, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.