Are you at risk for metabolic syndrome?

What is Metabolic Syndrome?  Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) is a “group of risk factors that increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and perhaps some types of cancer.”  Currently there is not one set definition used to diagnose MetS but one commonly used definition comes from the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III).   They define Mets as “abnormalities in any three of five clinical measures: waist circumference, triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol), blood pressure and fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels. 

Are you at risk for Metabolic Syndrome?  The following is a chart that summarizes diagnostic criteria: 

Measure Cut Point
Increased Waist Circumference > 35 inches in women> 40 inches in men
Elevated triglycerides > 150 mg/dL
Low HDL cholesterol < 50 mg/dL in women< 40 mg/dL in men
Elevated blood pressure > 130 mmHg systolic or> 85 mm Hg diastolic
Elevated fasting glucose > 100 mg/dL

Source: AHA/NHLBI Scientific Statement. Circulation 2005;112:e285-e290.

Again, if 3 or more of the above measures are beyond the “cut point”, then that would indicate an individual has metabolic syndrome according the NCEP ATP III guidelines.  Regular screenings are important so you know what your risk is and can potentially prevent future complications associated with the disease.

What is the prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome and what are the risks associated with it?  Currently about 25% of adults and 9% of teenagers in the US are considered to have MetS.  “Those with MetS are 2 times as likely to develop heart disease and 5 times as likely to develop diabetes compared to those without MetS.”

How is Metabolic Syndrome Treated?  Weight management, proper diet and increased physical activity are in the first-line of defense.  In fact, “as little as 7% weight loss along with 150 minutes of physical activity a week has been found to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 58% in high-risk adults.”  A diet that is “rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and unsaturated fats” has also been shown to lower the prevalence of MetS.  Adequate intakes of Calcium and Vitamin D have been shown to be particularly beneficial.  As for exercise, 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week is recommended.

Reference: Franz, M. J. “Lifestyle Intervention in its Prevention, Treatment and Mitigation”  Health Connections: Linking Nutrition Research to Practice.  Spring 2008.