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Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of risk factors that raise your chances of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Your doctor may diagnose you with metabolic syndrome if you have three of the following health problems:

  • Higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. As part of your regular checkup, your doctor may order a fasting blood glucose test. This measures the amount of sugar in your blood after you haven’t eaten for at least eight hours. Doctors consider fasting blood sugar levels abnormally high when they are above 100 mg/dL.
  • High blood pressure. A blood pressure reading above 130/85 puts you at increased risk for metabolic syndrome.
  • High triglycerides. Too much of this type of fat in your blood can raise your risk of heart disease. A normal triglyceride level is below 150 mg/dL.
  • Low HDL cholesterol. Doctors call HDL cholesterol “good” cholesterol because it helps protect you against heart disease. If you are a woman, your HDL number should be 50 or higher. If you are a man, it should be more than 40.
  • Abdominal obesity. Abdominal obesity, or belly fat, refers to excessive fat around your waist. If you are a woman, your waistline should be no more than 35 inches around. For men, waist circumference should be less than 40 inches.

Metabolic syndrome: what you should know

  • Each of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome is serious on its own. When they occur together, they significantly increase your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes:
    • People with metabolic syndrome have a two-fold increase in risk for heart attack or stroke.
    • They have a five-fold increased risk for developing diabetes.
  • More than one-third of U.S. adults over the age of 20 have metabolic syndrome.
  • Your risk of developing metabolic syndrome is significantly higher if you are overweight or obese.
  • Women with polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, are at increased risk for metabolic syndrome.

How can I get help for metabolic syndrome?

The good news about metabolic syndrome is that you may be able to reverse it — and prevent the development of serious illness — by making healthy changes to your lifestyle.

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Increase your activity level: Try to incorporate about 150 minutes of moderate exercise into your week.
  • Lose weight: Your long-term goal should be a body mass index, or BMI, of less than 25. If you have a lot of weight to lose, it may help to start with short-term goals. Losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can make a big difference in your health.

If your symptoms don’t get better after a few months, your doctor may recommend medications. These may include medicine to control your blood pressure and manage the level of fats — or lipids — in your blood.

Care for metabolic syndrome at Rush

  • Primary care: Your primary care doctor at Rush can be a partner in your fight against metabolic syndrome.
    • If you are overweight, he or she can help you create a plan to reach a healthy weight.
    • Your primary care doctor can also coach you on increasing your activity level.
    • He or she may prescribe medicines if lifestyle modifications do not work on their own.
  • Specialty care: If you need extra help with your lifestyle changes or if your symptoms do not improve even with medications, your primary care doctor may recommend that you see a specialist.
    • The Rush University Prevention Center offers comprehensive care for people with metabolic syndrome. In addition, the team includes experts in helping people who have had difficulty controlling their blood pressure. The department also has programs to help you make the behavior changes necessary for successful weight loss.
    • Registered dietitians at the Nutrition and Wellness Center at Rush can help you modify your diet to achieve your weight-loss and health goals.

Why choose Rush for metabolic syndrome care

  • Doctors in the Rush University Prevention Center are active in research on metabolic syndrome.
  • With the availability of registered dietitians to complement medical care, Rush can offer a holistic approach to addressing metabolic syndrome.

Departments and programs that treat this condition