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The Threat of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that greatly raises your risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors

If you have three or more of these factors, you are said to have metabolic syndrome:

  • A high level of triglycerides, or more than 150 mg/dL

  • A low level of HDL ("good") cholesterol, or below 40 mg/dL for men or 50 mg/dL for women

  • Abdominal obesity, or a waist circumference of greater than 40 for men, or greater than 35 for women 

  • High blood pressure, or 130/85 mmHg or greater

  • High blood sugar that is classified as prediabetes, 100 mg  to 125 mg /dL, or diabetes, 126 mg/dL or greater

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, if you have metabolic syndrome, you are two times more likely to have develop heart disease. Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is five times greater if you have metabolic syndrome.

Making changes

Yet there's good news. Lifestyle changes can prevent or reverse some of these risk factors, if you are among the 35 percent of adults who already has metabolic syndrome.

Although you can't change how genes contribute to your risk factors, you can do a lot to lower your risk. Eat a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables, for instance, and most days get 30 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate. Get to and maintain a healthy weight.