Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood glucose level, high triglyceride level and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level. Insulin resistance is common among individuals who are obese. Together, the conditions can negatively affect your heart and contribute to other health problems. Metabolic syndrome may affect 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. population.

Causes of metabolic syndrome

The direct cause of metabolic syndrome is not clearly understood. However, obesity coupled with a sedentary lifestyle contributes to developing risk factors for metabolic syndrome – high cholesterol, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.

The risk factors most closely associated with metabolic syndrome are:

  • Age: incidence increases with age
  • Ethnicity: Blacks and Mexican Americans are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome
  • Body mass index (BMI) greater than 25
  • Personal or family history of diabetes
  • Smoking
  • History of heavy drinking of alcohol
  • Stress
  • Post-menopausal status
  • High-fat diet
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Many of these risk factors can be reduced or eliminated by changing your lifestyle.

Why choose Ohio State for metabolic syndrome treatment?

Some people who have metabolic syndrome and morbid obesity and for whom traditional weight-loss measures have failed may be candidates for weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery) at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center – designated as a Bariatric Center of Excellence by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery in 2005. Our surgeons have performed weight-loss procedures for almost 30 years, and they currently perform more than 400 weight-loss surgeries a year.

How Ohio State diagnoses metabolic syndrome

In general, you do not have direct symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Some national clinical organizations have developed criteria to help diagnose metabolic syndrome. If you have three or more of these factors, you may have metabolic syndrome:

  • Abdominal obesity
  • Body mass index over that recommended for your height
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated fasting blood glucose
  • Prothrombotic state (a predisposition to venous or arterial thrombosis which is the formation or presence of a clot within a blood vessel)
  • Insulin resistance as identified by type 2 diabetes, impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance

How Ohio State treats metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome increases your risk for developing more serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, treating metabolic syndrome is important. Treatment may include:

  • Lifestyle management – a program of weight loss and exercise
  • Tobacco cessation
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Changes in dietary habits, including eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Medication to help lower blood pressure, improve insulin metabolism, improve cholesterol and increase weight loss
  • Weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery) to treat morbid obesity in individuals for whom conservative measures have failed.
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