The all-too-common Metabolic Syndrome

What is Metabolic Syndrome, and why do we care?  The metabolic syndrome is a collection of cardiovascular risk factors that tend to occur together.  They are important to identify and address because they contribute to increased (earlier) mortality from all causes, not just specifically cardiovascular disease.  In other words, if you have metabolic syndrome, you’re more likely to develop diabetes, develop heart disease, and die earlier than your healthy counterparts.

The NCEP (National Cholesterol Education Program) guidelines on the diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome are the generally accepted criteria, although some other agencies have published slightly different criteria.  Here they are:

  • Abdominal obesity: waist circumference > 102 cm (40 inches) in men, > 88 cm (35 inches) in women
  • High blood pressure: ≥ 130/85 mm Hg
  • Hypertriglyceridemia: ≥ 150 mg/dL (1.69 mmol/L)
  • Low HDL cholesterol: < 40 mg/dL
  • Elevated fasting glucose: ≥ 110 mg/dL (6.1 mmol/L)

The need for medication to treat any of the above, though it may be in the normal range on that medication, also counts against you.

How common is Metabolic Syndrome?  Too common.

Metabolic Syndrome is far more common in the US than diabetes mellitus, which is already of epidemic proportions.  It has been estimated that over 47 million Americans can be classified as having the Metabolic Syndrome, whether or not it has been diagnosed.  In addition, as much as 40% of individuals over age 60 have the Metabolic Syndrome.

How do you treat Metabolic Syndrome?  Simple, kind of.

  1. Dietary modifications aimed at weight loss
  2. Increase physical activity
  3. Treat any of the above problems: lipids, blood pressure, or diabetes (prediabetes).
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