How to Tell If You Are at Risk for Metabolic Syndrome

August 12, 2016 Updated: August 12, 2016

When it comes to metabolic syndrome, the saying goes: “It’s not a matter of if you’re going to have a heart attack or stroke, but a matter of when.” Metabolic syndrome is also more common than many realize. In fact, many people may have this condition without knowing they are essentially a ticking time bomb for serious health issues.

So what is metabolic syndrome and how common is it?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that greatly increases a person’s chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health problems.

5 Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome

Identifying metabolic syndrome depends upon the presence of three or more risk factors:

1. Central obesity. Your waist circumference will tell you this:

  • More than 40 inches for men
  • More than 35 inches for women

2. Fasting blood triglycerides of 150 mg/dl or more or you are taking medicine for high triglyderides 

3. Low HDL cholesterol levels or taking medicine for low HDL cholesterol:

  • Men less than 40 mg/dl
  • Women less than 50 mg/dl

4. Elevated blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or taking medicine for high blood pressure

5. Fasting glucose (blood sugar) of 100 mg/dl or more or taking medicine for high blood glucose

Who Is at Risk

Even though the precise cause of metabolic syndrome is unknown, over the years, this condition has steadily risen, and today about 34 percent of Americans are estimated to have it. About 85 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes are affected.

Worldwide, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome is also growing.

Anyone can be at risk for metabolic syndrome, but there is a higher prevalence of it in non-Hispanic white men compared to Mexican-American or non-Hispanic black men. However, in women it is more common in Mexican-Americans than in non-Hispanic black or non-Hispanic white women.

The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age, and about 40 percent of people over 60 have it.

How to Treat Metabolic Syndrome

The main goal is to treat the underlying cause of the syndrome while also preventing the development of other chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Metabolic syndrome can be treated with lifestyle modification, which is preferable to resorting to medications. These are some of the lifestyle changes that will need to occur:

  • Reduce weight.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise: Choose a sustainable exercise program such as 30 minutes, five days a week.
  • Consume a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet or the DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

When a person loses weight, stops smoking, includes exercise, and eats a healthy diet, there will be substantial beneficial effects on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity and thus result in lowering your chance of metabolic syndrome.

Dr. David B. Samadi. (Courtesy David B. Samadi)
Dr. David B. Samadi.(Courtesy David B. Samadi)

Dr. David Samadi is the chairman of the urology department and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Learn more at and visit Dr. Samadi’s blog: Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.