How Can You Prevent Metabolic Syndrome?

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 07, 2021

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and excess fat in the abdomen. Having these risk factors drastically raises your risk of diabetes, and blood vessel and heart disease.

Experts say you can prevent metabolic syndrome in the same way you would treat it. You need to make sensible changes to your lifestyle. You should:

  • Exercise. Start slowly. The American Heart Association recommends, if possible, that you gradually step up to exercising on most days of the week for 30-60 minutes. Consult your health care provider if you have any physical limitations or concerns.
  • Eat a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low fat dairy, and go easy on the saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt.
  • Lose weight if you're overweight.
  • Quit smoking if you smoke -- now.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your doctor. Since metabolic syndrome doesn't have symptoms, you need regular doctor visits to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.

One 2005 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed how well lifestyle changes could prevent metabolic syndrome. Researchers looked at more than 3,200 people who already had impaired glucose tolerance, a pre-diabetic state. One group was instructed to make lifestyle changes. They exercised 2.5 hours a week and ate a low- calorie, low-fat diet. After three years, people in the lifestyle group were 41% less likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who got no treatment. The lifestyle changes were also about twice as effective as using a diabetes medicine, Glucophage.

Of course, if you already have some of the risk factors, your odds of getting metabolic syndrome are higher. You need to work hard to prevent it. You must not wait if you have:

If these conditions apply to you, take action now, before you actually develop metabolic syndrome. Losing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight can help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol levels.

In addition to making lifestyle changes, you might also need medicine. Drugs can get your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol under control. Talk to your doctor.

Show Sources

SOURCES: American Heart Association web site, "Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health: Questions and Answers." Deen D, American Family Physician, June 15, 2004; vol 69: pp 2875-2882. Grundy SM et al, Circulation, 2005: vol 112: pp e285-290. Orchard TJ et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, April 19, 2005; vol 142: pp 611-619.

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