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Metabolic Syndrome Explained

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome (also called Syndrome X) is a group of conditions that give you a higher chance, or risk, of getting diabetes and heart disease. These conditions are:

Some experts think that if you have 3 or more of the above conditions, you have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is not a new disease.  It is just an easier way to describe a set of risk factors that doctors see in their patients.


How can I lower my risk?

The best way to protect yourself from metabolic syndrome is to follow a healthy lifestyle.  If you have metabolic syndrome, your doctor may give you drugs to treat your conditions. You can help protect yourself and reduce your risk by:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet!

    • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Try to make half of what you eat fruits and vegetables. Focus on eating vegetables, which tend to be lower in calories than fruit.
    • Pick low or nonfat dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt.
    • Try to make half the grains you eat whole grains.
    • Choose lean (low in fat) proteins such as beans, soy, white chicken meat or fish.
    • Visit for help in planning meals.
  • Being Active!

    • Before you start any activity, check with your doctor.
    • Strive for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
    • If you have not been active for a while, slowly increase your level of activity.
    • Physical activity offers a double bonus: Not only does it help you burn calories, but it also helps reduce your blood sugar levels. It may even decrease the “bad” or LDL cholesterol.
    • Visit Physical Activity and Healthy Weight for resources to help you.
  • Quitting smoking!

    • If you smoke, quit. Smoking can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.
    • Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.
    • If you have trouble quitting smoking on your own, consider joining a support group. Many hospitals, workplaces, and community groups offer classes to help people quit smoking.
    • Visit our health topic to find resources to help you quit.

For more help on how to start healthy habits, see (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute).
To find out if you are at risk for developing Diabetes, visit Your Diabetes Risk.


What causes Metabolic Syndrome?

It is possible that insulin resistance causes metabolic syndrome.  Insulin resistance occurs when your body has trouble using insulin to change the glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream into energy. This causes higher blood sugar levels and increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Find out more about the important role insulin and glucose play in the body!


Points to Remember

You can prevent or reverse insulin resistance and your chances of getting diabetes by:

  • Making wise food choices
  • Being physically active
  • Reaching and keeping a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking.


Hope Through Research – You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about metabolic syndrome. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:


This article originally appeared in Chow Line, a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.


Related Resources:

Metabolic Syndrome (MedlinePlus)

For more information:

Go to the Diabetes health topic.