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Metabolic Syndrome

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a condition that increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It is a very common and dangerous medical problem. If metabolic syndrome is not treated, you are much more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. Decreasing your risk factors by making healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent these health problems.

You may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you have 3 or more of the following risk factors:

  • Excess weight (fat) around the waist
  • High levels of triglycerides in the blood
  • Low HDL cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure (130/85 or higher)
  • A fasting blood sugar (glucose) higher than normal

What is the cause?

The exact cause is not known. Your risk is higher if you:

  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease
  • Don’t get enough physical activity
  • Are overweight
  • Smoke
  • Eat a diet high in fats or carbohydrates

What are the symptoms?

You may not have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Headaches
  • Getting tired easily
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Urinating a lot
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You will have blood tests to measure:

  • Triglycerides
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Blood sugar

How is it treated?

The most important part of treatment is making healthy lifestyle changes:

  • More physical activity, as recommended by your healthcare provider, to improve your fitness; lose weight; and lower your blood pressure, triglycerides and blood sugar. Physical activity also raises HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
  • A healthier diet
  • Not smoking

If lifestyle changes don’t lower your risk enough, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine. You may need to take more than one medicine, such as:

  • Aspirin may help prevent blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take this medicine for more than 10 days.
  • Blood pressure medicines can lower your blood pressure to help prevent stroke and heart damage.
  • Cholesterol medicine can bring down high triglyceride levels. It can also raise your HDL, or “good” cholesterol, levels. If you are a smoker, quitting will also raise your HDL.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Eat a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Eat heart healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish.
  • Get more exercise, especially aerobic exercise. Ask your provider to give you a physical activity plan that tells you what kind of activity, and how much, is safe for you. Start slowly to avoid injury.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking lowers your HDL and increases your risk for heart disease in other ways as well.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight and keep a healthy weight. Even just a 10% weight loss may lower your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. 10% would be 20 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds.
  • Get your cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and weight checked as often as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-02-09
Last reviewed: 2015-01-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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