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What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a health condition that everyone's talking about.

Although it was only identified less than 20 years ago, metabolic syndrome is as widespread as pimples and the common cold . According to the American Heart Association, 47 million Americans have it. That's almost a staggering one out of every six people. The syndrome runs in families and is more common among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. The risks of developing metabolic syndrome increases as you age.

Indeed, metabolic syndrome seems to be a condition that many people have, but no one knows very much about. It's also debated by the experts -- not all doctors agree that metabolic syndrome should be viewed as a distinct condition.

So what is this mysterious syndrome -- which also goes by the scary-sounding name Syndrome X -- and should you be worried about it?

Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself. Instead, it's a group of risk factors -- high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat.

Obviously, having any one of these risk factors isn't good. But when they're combined, they set the stage for grave problems. These risk factors double your risk of blood vessel and heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. They increase your risk of diabetes by five times.

The good news is that metabolic syndrome can be controlled, largely with changes to your lifestyle.

Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome

According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are five risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome.

Large Waist Size

For men: 40 inches or larger
For women: 35 inches or larger

Cholesterol: High Triglycerides


150 mg/dL or higher


Using a cholesterol medicine

Cholesterol: Low Good Cholesterol (HDL)


For men: Less than 40 mg/dL
For women: Less than 50 mg/dL


Using a cholesterol medicine

High Blood Pressure


Having blood pressure of 135/85 mm Hg or greater


Using a high blood pressure medicine

Blood Sugar: High Fasting Glucose Level

100 mg/dL or higher

To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you would have at least three of these risk factors.

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