Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

By Philip A. Ades, M.D., EatingWell Editors, "The Metabolic Syndrome," EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook (2008)

What you need to know about obesity and heart disease risk.

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that are directly related to the presence of abdominal obesity. It is characterized by "insulin resistance," which is a prediabetic state and markedly increases the chance that you will develop coronary heart disease and/or diabetes. It is a very significant risk factor and calls for emergency preventive measures.

A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome requires the presence of any three of the following five factors:

  • Abdominal obesity. Waist 40 inches or greater in men, 35 inches or greater in women
  • Blood pressure over 130 systolic (first number) or 85 diastolic (second number)
  • Fasting blood triglycerides over 150
  • HDL cholesterol under 40 in men, 50 in women
  • Fasting blood sugar of 100 or higher (over 126 signifies diabetes)

The presence of metabolic syndrome can increase the risk of someone developing heart disease by five to ten times compared with that of individuals who have none of these characteristics. It also signifies an extremely high risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes not only makes developing CHD more likely, but also is associated with the development of eye problems, kidney problems, sexual dysfunction, neurological pain and poor circulation to the legs and brain. You want to prevent it, or reverse it if you can.

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