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Heart Disease Health Center

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Metabolic Syndrome

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What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome, also known as syndrome X or dysmetabolic syndrome, refers to a cluster of metabolic conditions that can lead to heart disease.

The main features of metabolic syndrome include insulin resistance, hypertension (high blood pressure), abnormal cholesterol, and an increased risk for clotting. People diagnosed with this syndrome are usually overweight or obese.

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Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it properly. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps the body use glucose, a form of sugar, for energy. If a person has insulin resistance, his or her body is not converting glucose for use by muscles and other tissues.

How Is Metabolic Syndrome Diagnosed?

According to American Heart Association guidelines, any three of the following traits in the same person meet the criteria for the metabolic syndrome:

  1. Abdominal obesity: a waist circumference over 102 cm (40 in) in men and over 88 cm (35 inches) in women
  2. Serum triglycerides: 150 mg/dl or above, or taking medication for elevated triglycerides
  3. HDL (''good'') cholesterol: 40mg/dl or lower in men and 50mg/dl or lower in women
  4. Blood pressure of 130/85 or above (or taking medication for high blood pressure)
  5. Fasting blood glucose of 100 mg/dl or above

The World Health Organization (WHO) has slightly different criteria for defining the metabolic syndrome:

  1. High insulin levels, an elevated fasting blood glucose or an elevated post-meal glucose alone with at least two of the following criteria:
  2. Abdominal obesity as defined by a waist-to-hip ratio of greater than 0.9, a body mass index of at least 30 kg/m2 or a waist measurement over 37 inches
  3. Cholesterol panel showing a triglyceride level of at least 150 mg/dl or an HDL cholesterol lower than 35 mg/dl
  4. Blood pressure of 140/90 or higher (or on treatment for high blood pressure)

How Common Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Approximately 20%-30% of the population in industrialized countries has metabolic syndrome.

What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?

As is true with many medical conditions, genetics and the environment both play important roles in the development of metabolic syndrome.

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