The metabolic syndrome is a medical term that applies to a number of health conditions. We will go into each condition shortly. For now, just think of this syndrome as a wide-ranging medical condition that often results from being overweight or obese.

Nobody likes to face the potential for a dangerous medical condition, and Metabolic Syndrome is no different. However, we can make a conscious choice to make some lifestyle decisions and lower our risk of developing the condition.

Causes of Metabolic Syndrome

Inactive lifestyles and  a genetic predisposition are often responsible for the metabolic syndrome. Another word for inactivity is “sedentary lifestyle,” which is the word most medical professionals use to describe a lazy, desk-top lifestyle.

Of course, being sedentary is a risk factor for being overweight or obese; and both conditions can create many other health problems.

Since being overweight or obese is related to this syndrome, here is a point-by-point description of what happens regularly in the body:

  • A healthy digestive system will actively break down the food you eat into sugar or glucose. The chemical responsible for this conversion is insulin.
  • Being overweight or obese can stimulate problems within the digestive system.
  • Sometimes the digestive system of people who are overweight or obese goes away.
  • As a result, your cells don’t respond to insulin, causing your blood sugar to spike. This condition is called insulin resistance.

Who is at risk for Metabolic Syndrome?

Statistically, certain demographic groups in the population are at higher risk than others. Also, people with certain health conditions are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

  • Age: The risk of MS increases as you get older.
  • Race: Mexican Americans appear to be at the highest risk of developing metabolic syndrome, followed by Caucasians and African Americans.
  • Diabetes: The risk of MS is higher if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
  • Obesity: disproportionate amounts of fat around the abdomen increase the risk of MS.
  • Diseases: Cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome increase the risk of developing MS.

Signs of metabolic syndrome

As we go through the six most common signs of metabolic syndrome, keep in mind that some metabolic disorders have no symptoms; this is a critical point.

By these criteria, anyone with three or more signs meets the standards for Metabolic Syndrome

High blood pressure [Hypertension]

Healthy blood pressure is below 120 systolic or 80 diastolic (120/80). Blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90 is considered “normal.” Any blood pressure reading above 140/90 is a sign of prehypertension.

Symptoms of high blood pressure: dizziness, headaches, chest pain, shortness of breath, nosebleeds.

High blood sugar level

For a person without diabetes, a “fasting blood sugar” reading (a measurement taken after a 24-hour fast) is less than 100 mg per deciliter (dl).

Generally, blood sugar (or blood glucose) is considered too high if it exceeds 130 mg / dl before a meal or 180 mg / dl shortly after. In most cases, symptoms of high blood glucose do not appear until levels exceed 250 mg / dl.


Symptoms of high blood glucose levels: blurred vision, fatigue, headaches, increased thirst, frequent urination, trouble concentrating (“brain fog”).

Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol

HDL is considered the “good” type of cholesterol and is vital for heart health. Despite popular opinion, cholesterol is an essential fat and is a crucial substance for every cell.

For men, the HDL level of less than 40 mg / dl is considered too low. For women, HDL levels are less than 50 mg / dl. Smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise are commonly cited reasons for low HDL.

Large waist circumference

A large waist size is generally an indication of excess belly fat. A “large waist circumference” is defined as a waist that measures at least 35 inches (89 centimeters) for women and 40 inches (102 centimeters) for men.

High level of triglycerides

Triglycerides are one of the three groups of fatty acids and are in our blood. As we eat, the body transfers calories not needed for energy to triglycerides and stores them in its fat cells. As the body needs energy, this lipid is released by hormones within the pancreas.

  • Normal levels: less than 150 mg / dl.
  • Limit: 150-200 mg / dl.
  • High: more than 200 mg / dl.
  • Dangerously high :> 500 mg / dl (can cause pancreatic inflammation).


Obesity is defined as being excessively overweight and is the main risk factor for developing metabolic syndrome. Generally, a measure called body mass index (BMI) is used to determine how obese a person is.

While it is an imperfect method, BMI can help someone determine if they are overweight or obese. Keep in mind that it is important to have to consider your body type: a simple “eye test” will suffice (not medically recommended, obviously).

First, here’s how to calculate BMI in kilograms (kg) and centimeters (cm):

– Weight (kg) divided by height (cm)

How to calculate BMI in pounds (lb) and inches (in inches):

– LB / IN x .45

Second, here is the BMI range (applies to both men and women) for underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obesity:

  • Underweight: BMI <18.5
  • Normal: BMI 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight: BMI 25.0-29.9

Obese (and category):

  • Class 1: BMI 30 <35
  • Class 2: BMI 35 <40
  • Class 3: BMI> 40 (“extreme” or “severe” obesity)

Decrease your risk of acquiring Metabolic Syndrome

Here are some ways to lower your risk of metabolic syndrome:

  1. Losing weight: even a 10% reduction helps significantly.
  2. Exercise: Aim for 30-45 minutes of moderate physical activity per day.
  3. Know your family history of risk-related illnesses (see above) and make the appropriate changes.
  4. Eat a balanced and nutritious diet: prioritize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.
  5. Don’t fast without consulting a medical professional.


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