Syndrome X: What To Do Next?

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Learn what the underlying risks of metabolic syndrome are and when you should see the doctor.

Metabolism: The processes within your body, such as turning food you eat into fuel for energy, to keep you alive.

Metabolic Syndrome (a.k.a. Syndrome X) is a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

Signs and Symptoms

Having metabolic syndrome means you have three or more disorders related to your metabolism at the same time, including:

  • Obesity, particularly around your waist
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated levels of blood fat (triglycerides)
  • Lower than normal High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol, and higher than normal Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance or glucose intolerance (body cannot properly use insulin or blood sugar)

Having one of these disorders means you’re more than likely to have others. And the more you have, the greater the risk to your health. If you know you have at least one of these disorders, it is worth making a visit to your doctor. You may have other symptoms and not know it. Checking for signs early can help prevent serious diseases.

Causes of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome has several causes that act together. Some causes can be controlled, such as being overweight/obese or having an inactive lifestyle. Insulin resistance can also be monitored. Other conditions associated with metabolic syndrome are aging, hormonal imbalance, and genetic disposition. The dominant underlying risks are abdominal obesity and insulin resistance. While researchers are still working to understand the causes of insulin resistance, it can be monitored and controlled with proper medical care.

Risk Factors

Some of the following factors may increase your risk of metabolic syndrome:

  • Age: Risk increases with age
  • Race: Hispanics have the highest rate of metabolic syndrome, followed by Caucasians and African Americans
  • Obesity: Abdominal obesity is a greater risk for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body
  • History of diabetes: Family history of diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy increases risk of metabolic syndrome
  • Other diseases: Risk is increased if with high blood pressure and/or cardiovascular disease
Health issues that create the greatest risk for metabolic syndrome include a large waistline, an inactive lifestyle and insulin resistance.

Intervention & Prevention

Tips to manage or prevent metabolic syndrome

Whether you have one, two or none of the disorders of metabolic syndrome, the following lifestyle changes will reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke:

  • Commit to a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose lean cuts of white meat or fish. Avoid processed or deep-fried foods. Reduce or eliminate salt use by cooking and flavoring with herbs and spices.
  • Get moving. Get plenty of regular physical activity to strengthen your heart and improve overall health. About 30 minutes of regular exercise, like walking around in your home, is recommended per day. If walking is difficult, try chair exercises that involve moving your arms and legs.
  • Lose weight. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce insulin levels and blood pressure and decrease your risk of diabetes.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases insulin resistance and worsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome. Talk to your doctor if you need help kicking the cigarette habit.
  • Check waist circumference: A waist measurement of less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men is the goal for preventing metabolic syndrome; it’s also the goal when treating metabolic syndrome.
  • Schedule regular checkups. Check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels on a regular basis.


Information from: AHA:, NIH: health/dci/Diseases/ms/ms_whatis.html, Mayo Clinic: ds00522. Nutrition education for February 2011. Produced by Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County by Angeline Vanto, a nutrition intern for Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D. For questions regarding nutrition education contact: Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D., Director of Nutrition Services for Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County at (817) 336-0912 or email: Website: 

Posted in Nutritional Education.

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