Several organizations have criteria for diagnosing metabolic syndrome. According to guidelines used by the National Institutes of Health, you have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of these traits or are taking medication to control them:
- Large waist circumference — a waistline that measures at least 35 inches (89 centimeters) for women and 40 inches (102 centimeters) for men
- High triglyceride level — 150 milligrams per deciliter,(mg/dL), or 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), or higher of this type of fat found in blood
- Reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — less than 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) in men or less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women of this "good" cholesterol
- Increased blood pressure — 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher
- Elevated fasting blood sugar — 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or higher
If aggressive lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise aren't enough, your doctor might suggest medications to help control your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood glucose.
Lifestyle and home remedies
A lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle is usually required to prevent serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. This includes:
- Being physically active. Doctors recommend getting 30 or more minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, daily. Look for ways to increase activity, such as walking instead of driving and using stairs instead of elevators when possible.
- Losing weight. Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce insulin resistance and blood pressure and decrease your risk of diabetes.
- Eating healthfully. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet, like many healthy-eating plans, limit unhealthy fats and emphasize fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. Both dietary approaches have been found to offer important health benefits — in addition to weight loss — for people who have components of metabolic syndrome.
- Stopping smoking. Smoking cigarettes worsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome. Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting.
- Managing stress. Physical activity, meditation, yoga and other programs can help you handle stress and improve your emotional and physical health.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care provider. Or you may be referred immediately to a doctor who specializes in diabetes and other endocrine disorders (endocrinologist) or one who specializes in heart disease (cardiologist).
What you can do
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting for a specific test. Make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment
- Key personal information, including major stresses, recent life changes and family medical history
- All medications, vitamins or other supplements you take, including the doses
- Questions to ask your doctor
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
For metabolic syndrome, basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's likely causing my condition?
- What are other possible causes?
- What tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What's the best course of action?
- Will losing weight help my condition?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask about your diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits.
March 06, 2018
- Metabolic syndrome. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ms. Accessed Jan. 18, 2016.
- Meigs JB. The metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 18, 2016.
- O'Neill S, et al. Metabolic syndrome: A closer look at the epidemic and its associated pathologies. Obesity Reviews. 2015;16:1.