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HealthSheets™

Metabolic Syndrome

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic Syndrome (also called syndrome X) is a combination of risk factors that increase your chance for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Many people who have type 2 diabetes also have metabolic syndrome

You have metabolic syndrome if at least 3 of the following are true:

  • Your waist circumference is more than 40 inches if you are male, or 35 inches if you are female.

  • You have high blood pressure (130/85 or greater).

  • You have high blood sugar (a fasting blood sugar of 100 or greater).

  • You have high triglycerides (150 or greater).

  • You have low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).  For men, this means a HDL level less than 40.  For women, this means a HDL level less than 50).

The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Even if your cholesterol level is normal, you still may be at risk.

What causes metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is caused by not enough physical activity and eating a diet that has too many calories and saturated fat.  You can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes by improving your eating habits, getting more physical activity, and losing weight.  If you smoke, you should stop smoking.

Can physical activity help reduce my risk?

Yes.  Not being active is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease especially. You don't have to run a marathon to curb the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, moderate aerobic exercise will do (30 minutes, 5 - 6 days a week).

Can a healthy diet help reduce my risk?

Yes.  What you eat can affect your health.  Cholesterol is important to the body because it is used to form cell membranes, make hormones, and perform other important functions.  Having too much cholesterol can cause health problems such as heart disease and stroke. 

Guidelines to help you eat healthier:

  1. Meet with a Registered Dietitian. Registered Dietitians are trained professionals who will teach you how foods affect your health.  They can help you learn how your favorite foods can fit into a healthy diet and help you develop a meal plan that is right for you

  2. Eat three meals a day.  Food is to be used as a fuel to help us through the day.  Without fuel, we cannot function to the best of our ability.  We need to refuel at least three times a day.  Skipping a meal could make you overeat at the next meal.

  3. Use your plate to guide you. The goal is to have a healthy balance of food on your plate.  Half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables.  One fourth of your plate starchy foods and the other fourth protein.

  4. Choose fiber. Fiber can help with blood pressure, weight management, and cancer prevention.  It is found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

  5. Choose lean meats. Fat can increase your risk for a heart attack, stroke, cancer, and obesity.  Choose at least 92% lean mean.  White poultry meat is a good low fat option.

  6. Choose low fat dairy. Dairy provides a wonderful source of calcium, which can help with blood pressure, weight management, and the prevention of osteoporosis.  Dairy products can often be high in fat, so choose skim or 1% milk, low fat yogurt, and cheese.

  7. Set aside time for meals. Sit down and enjoy your food.  Avoid eating on the run or in your vehicle.

  8. Watch out for empty calories. That piece of candy, regular soda, or a handful of chips - all of those calories add up.

  9. Meet ith a Registered Dietitian. Registered Dietitians are trained professionals who will teach you how foods affect your health.  They can help you learn how your favorite foods can fit into a healthy diet and help you develop a meal plan that is right for you.