Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
- Abdominal obesity: Defined by a waist circumference of over 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.
- High triglycerides: Triglycerides, a component of dietary fat, are said to be borderline at 150 mg/dL (deciliter) and elevated at over 200 mg/dL.
- Low HDL cholesterol: HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol because at higher levels it can actually protect against heart disease. Low HDL cholesterol is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome when it is below 40 mg/dL in men and below 50 mg/dL in women.
- High blood pressure: At least 130/85, or you are taking medication to control blood pressure.
- High fasting blood sugar: A blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL or greater after not eating for at least eight hours, or you are taking medication to control blood sugar.
Prevention is Possible
What You Can Do
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can cut your risk of diabetes in half and will also reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome.
- Be active. Thirty minutes of physical activity a day most days of the week — or more if possible — can help cut your risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Exercise is crucial because it helps control your weight, lowers your blood pressure, and helps your body to use insulin more effectively, thereby reducing your blood sugar and risk of diabetes. A study of 6,410 middle-aged men over the course of 28 years showed that the more active they were when they were not at work, the less likely they were to develop either diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Be sure to find activities you enjoy, such as walking or playing sports.
- Don’t smoke. Although cigarette smoking is not a risk factor for developing diabetes, it is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
- Limit alcohol consumption. A study of more than 1,500 people found that men who drank more than two drinks a day and women who drank more than one alcoholic drink per day had an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Excess alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides, all key components of metabolic syndrome.
- Sleep seven to eight hours a night. Although the relationship between daily amount of sleep and metabolic syndrome is not yet fully understood, a study of 1,214 adults found that metabolic syndrome was more likely to occur in those who slept fewer than seven hours or more than eight hours a night. After the researchers took the use of high blood pressure medications into account (some of which can cause fatigue and longer sleep duration), the risk of metabolic syndrome was only found to be increased among those who slept less than seven hours nightly.