Could You Have Metabolic Syndrome?

By , SparkPeople Blogger

Since the 1940's a relationship between certain metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease has been recognized. In the 1980's this association began being known as syndrome X or metabolic syndrome.

Last week, a new study revealed that "women who breastfeed may be less likely to develop metabolic syndrome."

What is metabolic syndrome and how do you know if you might have it?

Metabolic syndrome is considered to be a clustering of risk factors in one person resulting in an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This syndrome has become increasingly common in the U.S. with an estimated 47 million affected adults. Insulin resistance is closely associated with metabolic syndrome and so it can also be called insulin resistance syndrome. When an individual with insulin resistance also has hypertension as well as lipid profile abnormalities, they fit into the metabolic syndrome category.

Definitions of metabolic syndrome depend on the group of experts who are doing the defining. The World Health Organization has a slightly different set of defining guidelines compared to the most widely followed guidelines of the 2001 National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel (ATP III) used in the United States. When a person has three or more of the typical risk factors, they meet the metabolic syndrome criteria.

The typical risk criteria include:
  • Central abdominal obesity which results in a waist circumference in woman greater than 35 inches (88 cm) and 40 inches (102 cm) for men.
  • A fasting serum triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or greater.
  • A fasting serum HDL cholesterol of 50 mg/dL or lower in women and 40 mg/dL or lower in men.
  • Blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or greater
  • Fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater

Prevention and treatment recommendations are the same for metabolic syndrome.
  • Exercise - The American Heart Association recommends, when possible and health conditions permit, increasing your exercise routines until you are exercising 30-60 minutes most days of the week. Whether there is a decrease in body weight or not, regular exercise improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. Walking is a great way to get started and also to mix in with other Fun Fitness Ideas to help you stay motivated for activity every day.
  • Eat a Healthy Diet - Research is showing that a Mediterranean style diet enriched with nuts can be a useful eating pattern for those at risk for metabolic syndrome. Try including a 2 tablespoon serving of nuts as part of your protein and healthy fat intake each day. Since insulin resistance is a primary concern in metabolic syndrome, it should also be a primary focus of your healthy eating plan. A controlled carbohydrate eating plan that limits simple carbohydrates in favor of complex carbohydrates that make up 50% of your total calories can be beneficial. Likewise, studies are showing that there is a strong link related to increases in fructose intake and the increases in insulin resistance. That may be a topic for another blog but the take away for today is that controlling your carbohydrates is beneficial.
  • Improve Your Body Composition - If you are overweight, working to lose weight and reach a healthy BMI is important. Unfortunately many times the fat in the mid-section/abdomen is the last to go. Don't get discouraged if you see the scale go down but don't initially see a dramatic change in your girth size. Keep focusing on your exercise, strength training and nutrition plan and trust that as you continue to move closer to a healthy BMI you will also see changes in your body composition that will improve your abdominal girth size as well.
  • Stop Smoking - Make this the day and the reason you finally commit to giving up the habit and quit smoking for good.

The Bottom Line - If you are overweight , carry your extra weight in your midsection, have been told you have unhealthy cholesterol or glucose levels or have problems with your blood pressure – you could have metabolic syndrome. However, whether you have been given that "label" or not really doesn't matter. Metabolic syndrome is not a diagnosis but does serve as a red flag that you need to make your health a priority.

A 2005 study published in the Annuls of Internal Medicine revealed that lifestyle changes were twice as effective as diabetes medicine in those that were as risk for developing metabolic syndrome. If you are currently being treated for hypertension, per-diabetes/diabetes and/or high cholesterol – keep working with your doctor as you achieve a healthier lifestyle. As you make positive changes, chances are you will also need changes to your medical treatment plan. Hopefully those changes lead to a reduction of not only your medications but also your risks of a cardiovascular incident or diabetes complications.

Will today be the day you commit to your health and reducing your risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease by renewing your commitment to a healthier lifestyle? What will you do differently? What will you continue with renewed commitment?

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I have it... but is about to get rid of it Report
hmm. I have mixed emotions about this article. I think we would be better served if we just called it what it is. Being overweight leads to Diabetes II, HTN, hypercolesterimia, coronary artery desease and utlimatley end-stage renal failure dependant on dialysis. I'm not willing to say: oh I have sydrome X, that's why I have x, y and z.
And by the way, I have known quite a few people who have lost a small amount of weight, 10 pounds even, and stop needing some or all of their BP meds. Report
I'm missing the glucose piece, but I've got the rest. Just saw my internist, who was concerned about my triglycerides, which were double the high-normal limit, at 330. As someone who consumed a good deal of starchy food and fat, I didn't think I'd be able to switch to a largely proteins-and-veggies regimen. But amazingly, it has been (after the first week)...and I can't tell you how much better I feel! At this early point, I feel pretty confident I'll be able to reduce my BMI (I have 48 more pounds I'd like to lose) and have a normal level of triglycerides when my doctor re-checks me in four months. Report
I'm not there yet. But as a relatively healthy but overweight woman, I started seeing a cardiologist in the hopes of preventing the downward slide to Metabolic Syndrome.

I'm losing the weight, my waist isn't going down fast, but will eventually.
I am determined to not pick up the other 3 pieces of the syndrome (triglicerides, glucose and HBP).
Reading once more all the ill-effects of obesity and unfortunate genetics makes me even more determined to keep my weight under control. At 69, I am on blood pressure tablets and also lipitor for controlling cholesterol. Add to that osteoporosis and osteoarthritis and you can see that it is a necessity to stay healthy. I think the glucosamine and fish oil tablets I take have kept the osteoarthritis in check and the actonel and calcium/vitaminD is reversing the osteoporosis. I have also read a book by Dr John Lee who advocates natural progesterone, rather than actonel. I haven't made the switch yet, but I intend to do so, as I am aware of the research that connects actonel with unusual fractures down the track. Luckily I am leading a happy, fulfilled life, free of any pain or symptoms of any of these problems.

I am following an elimination diet most of the time - no sugar, alcohol, dairy, wheat, caffeine - and am trying to exercise in two blocks of about 10-15 minutes per day. I also go to the gym for Pilates and Yoga classes.

My advice to younger people is to pay attention to the possibility of osteoporosis. Do regular weight-bearing exercise and take calcium and vitamin D supplements. It seems that many (not all) of the problems that creep up on us as we age are related to poor diet and lack of regular weight-bearing exercise. Metabolic syndrome seems to be another example. Report
Walkertxkitty- thank you for the additional information. I was diagnosed with PCOS two years ago and it has been a depressing weight battle. SparkPeople and every other weight loss inititiative I have engaged has not been able to resolve my issue. People dont believe me when I say I just cant lose the weight. Im appreciative of the support of SparkPeople, the tools for healthier living and people like you that make it seem a little less lonely and I feel little more encouraged. Report
It would be nice if the article had gone just a bit more in depth regarding metabolic syndromes (that's right, syndromes; they're a cluster of diseases, not just symptoms). Some of those diseases like Stein-Levanthall (also known as PCOS or PCOD), and Kushing's, are not preventable at all. They're genetic and the standard advice of "lose weight, move more, eat less, quit smoking" is useless. In fact, it can drive sufferers into a state of hopelessness or even suicide because they're already following those guidelines and not seeing results. Those things will help, but improvement in my experience is minimal until the underlying issues are addressed. If you don't have a working metabolism in the first place, you're going to go nowhere without medical support.

I'd push harder for a diagnosis via elimination (most of those syndromes and diseases have definitive tests or more specific symptom markers) and for referral to a metabolic specialist such as an endocrinologist. It took a team of physicians --- an endocrinologist, a bariatric specialist, a nutritionist, and a dietician --- to get me to the point that I could lose weight even though I was already doing what was suggested in this article.

These points should have been covered as well because there's just no way someone with one of the more specific metabolic syndromes will succeed unless they get that kind of support and help. It isn't a matter of willpower, exercising, and eating less. I've been doing that for a decade with no results. It took the addition of hormones I was no longer able to make myself (born without them, many people with these diseases are) and a diet tailored to the metabolism I do have in order to see any results.

To anyone else reading, don't give up. Pester your doctors until you get an answer if you're not satisfied and you're certain you've given it your all. It could literally be a matter of life and death. Report
Thank you for the very informative article on Metabolic syndrome. I have it and am working to get rid of it. My numbers have all improved since losing 15 # (30 to go) with Sparkpeople. Again, thank you!!!!! Report
Always wondered what this term meant. I probably fit the requirements for it. I have lost 48 lbs. in one year with SP, exercise 60 to 100 minutes most days of week, and clothes are quite baggy on me everywhere except in the belly. I don't know what I am supposed to do about that. Appreciate suggestions. Report
I too am over my BMI and was diagnosed with Hishimoto's Disease which is a form of thyroid disorder. I also have a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure....So my plan is to continue to work on my over all health without focusing on the weight loss...Healthy living to start enjoying more physical activities with my family and not just in the gym Report
Yep, mines so slow? My Dr claims I'm one of the 1st Human Camels. I can actually go for days without being hungry- just thirsty all the time. According to Dr, most patients w/Thyroid or IBS have this problem:( Report
This is a very good article, and explains what this is. My Mom was type 2 diabetic, and finally had complications from this terrible disease. She had acute renal failure, and died. I have always hoped that I wouldn't get it, but I know that I'm at risk. I'm exercising regular, and trying to do better on diet,plus loose weight. Yea, I have a belly, and it's too big. One place the weight always wants to go too. Thanks for the information. Report
I have often wondered if i have metabolic syndrome. Now I have to say yes. But with diet and exercise, I can overcome this. Report
Part of my motivation in joining SP was a blood screening for work (for our insurance) that came back with me clearly having 2 of the risk factors and being borderline on 2 more. Report
Great topic! Along with hypothyroidism, I do have insulin resistance, and internal yeast (candida, although not albicans). Although the hypothyroidism is likely genetic (my mom had it and developed thyroid cancer), I do believe that years of carbs and other things that turn to sugar heartily contributed to the insulin resistance and yeast (imbalancing my digestive tract).

With my nutritionist I'm working on getting this turned around, but there are so many things to take into consideration! I do eat well and exercise (6-7 hours a week), but it still takes a while to get the system back under control when it's been off for a while. It's nice to see articles discussing different health issues that can affect your weight loss, as it can be very frustrating to be eating right and working out and not losing weight! Our metabolism and endocrine system can take a lot of knocks, but it's a fine machine that really needs to be treated well to get the best results! Report
Great Blog.. Boy was it an eye opener for me to get with it and to lose all this weight that i have packed on !!! doing good with spark 35 lbs gone Report
I am so glad to see articles such as this featured for all. For years thy blood pressure was high and now it is under control due to thy fantasict team of medical providers that I have. Since then I subscribe to the following : N.I.H., Medical News Today, F.D. A. , Join Together and the General Services Offices to name just a few. I have to be current with the now in the medical field as I chair A. A. meetings and I am going for thy B. S. in Psychology. If one is ever in doubt of thy medications do not be afraid to ask the pharmacy dept or research online.
In Christ,
Rev. Michele A. Smith
Matthew 21:22 Report
ooops sorry.....meant to say I DO have a metabolic disorder. Report
I've always thought this was a misnomer. I don't have a metabolic disorder but none of the symptoms, secondary conditions, or risks associated with metabolic syndrome. I do have a low metabolic rate, low body temp, inability to sweat, low heart rate, low blood pressure, and low body fat. Pretty much the opposite of all of the indicators of metabolic syndrome. I have a thyroid disease that all of those "low" conditions are the result of. I have yet to figure out what "metabolic syndrome" has to do with one's metabolism., Report
I was diagnosed with Syndrome X in 1999. I had high blood pressure, was pre-diabetic, and my triglyceride number was atrocious. My cholesterol, though only 220, was scary because my HDL and LDL ratios were atrocious. That year (I think because of the huge amounts of estrogen that my body was producing because I was obese), I developed an allergy to The Pill that I'd been taking for over 19 years. It looked like someone had pounded my calves and shins with their fists, and the allergy was diagnosed as erythema nodosum. The next year, I started having bladder problems, and was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. I believe the bladder problems started due to poor diet and quick weight gain. By 2006, I was over 400 pounds, was on Rx for the high blood pressure, used a C-PAP to control the sleep apnea, and felt 65 instead of 40. That year, at my annual physical, my GP asked if I would ever consider having gastric bypass. Denial is a river in Egypt! I insisted that I could lose the weight on my own. But there I was, at my 2007 annual physical, still 400 pounds, and this time contrite, hanging my head in shame and asking the doc for a referral to a good gastroenterologist. That decision changed my life. I am now 247 pounds lighter, free from all Rx, no longer have sleep apnea, high blood pressure (in fact, I have LOW BP), or high cholesterol (in fact, it is 159 and my ratios are GREAT!). Since November 2008, I have been with SparkPeople to lose the last forty pounds, and I FEEL GREAT! No more Syndrome X. Report
Guilty as charged, Tanya! Thanks for the reasons for dropping pounds are really important - and motivating - for me. Report
A lot of great information here!
Thanks for the great info! Report
For the past five years my triglycerides have been in the 160 to 170 range while my HDL (good) cholesterol is well over 60 and my LDL (bad) cholesterol is well under 100. Both doctors I've seen have been mystified since I am also at my ideal weight with a 23.5 BMI, a decent diet and active lifestyle. since I'm only 37, it's scary to think I have a condition I have absolutely no control over that could eventually kill me even though I'm doing everything right. Report
That's one of the reasons I'm working so hard at it. My family traditionally has problems with this. I've always carried all my weight right in my stomach. It's always the last to go and the first to come back. It makes my arms and legs look like sticks. (I've heard that comment too many times!) Report
I was told by my Dr. and a nutritionist that I have this mystery disease about 8 years ago. There is hardly any information out there for me to read. I am doing everything I can to reverse this. I have lost well over 100 pounds and have many more to go. I exercise and workout and lift weights as well. My eating habits are slowly changing, thanks to sparkspeople! If there is anyone out there that can get me in touch with information that would be wonderful. I think understanding a persons body helps you take care of yourself.
I do have all of the risk factors, my diabetes is currently under control, haven't been back to the Dr. to see how the BP is, the cholesterol is,ect. I take meds right now for all and my goal is to get off of these meds. Less IS BETTER, less meds, less food, less weight, less of me!
Thank you for the blog. keep up the good work everyone!
I know I have M.S. and I've learned so much from ARTHUR AGATSTON, M.D. in his book "THE SOUTH BEACH HEART HEALTH PROGRAM". I suggest everyone read it if you are over 40. Report
WOW!!! I'm sure glad I'm doing something about my health now. Report
Today is my one year anniversary on Spark and I have renewed my commitment to continue to seek healthier options. In one year - I have become more consistent with my walking and exercise, I have lowered my cholesterol in seven weeks with out meds to normal range - I lowered it 64 points, I continue to seek healthier options when cooking and selecting my food choices. I stopped smoking 6 years ago and changed my sleeping pattern. This journey will be a part of me for the rest of my life. I love SPARK! it has helped me gain consistency in my lifestyle for a healthier me! Report
I worry about this and diabetes alot! My father was diabetic for 40+ years, controlled it well, but it did get him in the end. I've been really trying to eat right and exercise the last 2 1/2 years, so I'm hoping I can outwit these two devastating diseases. Report
I don't have metabolic syndrome. Interestingly, there are more people think they have metabolic syndrome than they are. Diet is one of the major contributors so if one desires to prevent and control such illness should work on a healthy eating pattern. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle will definitely help. Report
last year i was diagnosed as pre-diabetic at 21 years old. I had no idea what metabolic syndrome or insulin resisitance was. I had to find a lot of info on my own and was able to lose 23 lbs with exercise and eating better. My BMI went down and so did my trigylcerides levels. Im glad that there are articles like this out there for people who have yet to be diagnosed but feel like there is something wrong with them. Report
I am borderline on all of the criteria. My PCP hasn't mentioned this syndrome to me; he did call me pre-diabetic one visit, but retracted it the next. Thanks to this clarifying article, I have specific measurements I can work on improving. My blood pressure already has gone down below the high range (due to exercising regularly), and I'm awaiting lipid panel results. Great info, thanks! Report
As a matter of fact, this article just sealed the deal. Today I choose to make the right decisions to change my life. I will add walking on alternate days at the gym . I am 5 months smokefree and I WILL be attentive to my meal plans. I want to be healthy and here for a long time yet.

Gini Report
thanks for sharing - looks like I'm on the right path - I exercise regular, eat a healthy diet, don't smoke,and not overweight (thanks to sparkpeople, I'm a maintainer at 108-109 pounds) and so far have 8 years of breastfeeding (and still counting) Report
High Blood Pressure run in my family that why I exercise so hard,and I don't care what anyone say,I am not going to stop it makes me feel very good after I run for 30 minutes or walk for 60 minutes,I have some friend telling me that I am doing too much,I know my body and I listen to it as well. Report
I was definitely at risk. I'm glad I'm now doing all the things to reverse the trend I was on. The difference in how I feel can not be understated! I have osteoarthritis and I didn't think I could ever run again. Last week for the first time in years I was able to run/walk for 4 miles, and I did jog for 2 of those miles. I was one sore puppy for a few days. I know I can't run all that much and that is why I have an eliptical trainer. But just the knowledge that I can gives me confidence. Report
Funny! Today I received a letter from Know Your Numbers, which I belong to through my job. One of the health problems that was addressed was Metabolic Syndrome. Yes I was worried that I had but thankfully I don't! Report
Thanks for the information. My parents and grandparents and myself have high blood pressure. Report
this disorder can fit me a well. I suffer type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure. I'm biggest in the abdomen area. I do exercise and the weight is at a stand still. It jsut seems so hard to get it off. It must be that most americans suffer this ailment. Great that you brought it to some of our attention. Report
This information is great to know. I have family members that have a large girth but The need to make it their priority. I am taking action for me today that My Health is My Priority today Report
I already exercise an hour and a half a day now. The only time I don't is when my Dr. tells me not to. I've seen my cholesterol go down and blood pressure and my diabetes Blood sugar go down. It stays down too. Report
Wow! Sounds like me - I am a diabetic (on 2 medications), have high blood-pressure (on 2 medications), am overweight, and I have to watch my cholesterol (right now it's pretty good). I've been working hard, with SP help, to lower my weight and get into better shape. I'm managing to keep my sugar below 110 since starting with SP, which has been a great motivator. (Losing a few pounds has helped too.) This article is another motivator for me. Thanks! Report
I found this article very helpful. The South Beach Diet doesn't allow fruit during the first two weeks. I have been torn about eating fruit ever since, and this article helped me in a decision to cut back on fruit for now. I'll just have berries on my cereal in the morning and perhaps one more serving of fruit later in the day. I am not on the South Beach Diet now but I still use most of its guidelines. I am printing out a copy of this article so that I will be patient on the days I work out hard and don't see weight loss or size reductions. At the least, I know I have greatly increased my stamina and endurance. Report
How interesting was this too read, thank you for the information. I have for years not eaten regular meals always missing one of them, that has not helped with my metabolic rate to work either. I am working out 5 days a week and eating really well. I am lucky I have a husband that is working with me and we plan to be fit and healthy for as long as we can, this blog was very interesting. Marie Report
Yes, today I will make the effort to reduce my risks of these diseases. I try to do some form of cardio daily. Today I plan to walk and add interval running in my walking. Report
I am a diabetic and I do everything I can to stay healthy and keep this nasty disease under control. Report
I had to check twice to see if my doctor wrote the blog. He has been nagging me for years to make changes to my lifestyle and I am finally beginning to see my numbers move into a healthier range. I am hoping to soon off high blood pressure and cholesterol medications and I will owe it all to my adopting a healthier lifestyle of exercising, eating healthier and losing weight. Report
I was the ast of 6 children in my family to be diagnosed as a diabetic...I am in my late 50's so I consider that doing well since my other siblings were in thier 20' , 30's, and 40's. My youngest brother even had an insulin pump before he passed away at the age of 34 from heart disease.........we inherited some very unwanted diseases from our parents. My dr. wanted to put me on meds right away but I wanted to go the diet and exercise route firtst...henceforth, my joing the SP....and so glad I did so..........having others there for support is such a big help for me Report