Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke. It is usually associated with a clustering of at least three of five of the following medical conditions: abdominal (central) obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke increases with the number of metabolic risk factors you have.
The risk of having metabolic syndrome is closely linked to obesity and a lack of physical activity. Insulin resistance also may increase your risk for metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body can’t use its insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it’s used for energy. Insulin resistance can lead to high blood sugar levels, and it’s closely linked to overweight and obesity. Genetics (ethnicity and family history) and older age are other factors that may play a role in causing metabolic syndrome. Recent research indicates prolonged chronic stress can contribute to metabolic syndrome by disrupting the hormonal balance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis).
Metabolic syndrome is becoming more common due to a rise in obesity rates among adults. According to the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF), approximately 20 – 25 percent of the world’s adult population has the cluster of risk factors that is metabolic syndrome. In the future, metabolic syndrome may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.
A number of expert groups have developed clinical criteria for the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. The most widely accepted of these were produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999,which require the presence of any one of diabetes mellitus, impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glucose or insulin resistance, AND two of the following:
Blood pressure: ≥ 140/90 mmHg
Dyslipidemia: triglycerides (TG): ≥ 1.695 mmol/L and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) ≤ 0.9 mmol/L (male), ≤ 1.0 mmol/L (female)
Central obesity: waist:hip ratio > 0.90 (male); > 0.85 (female), or body mass index > 30 kg/m2
Microalbuminuria: urinary albumin excretion ratio ≥ 20 µg/min or albumin:creatinine ratio ≥ 30 mg/g
Newer and more specific guidelines set by the International diabetes foundation (IDF) in 2006 (and more information on Metabolic Syndrome) are available in the IDF guideline consensus brochure linked in the documents section of our webpage.
It is possible to prevent or delay metabolic syndrome, mainly with lifestyle changes including increased physical activity (such as walking 30 minutes every day), and a healthy, reduced calorie diet. A healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment. Successfully controlling metabolic syndrome requires long-term effort and teamwork with your health care providers.
International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has prepared a comprehensive report on Metabolism Syndrome which can be accessed here: