Dietitians Dish: Metabolic syndrome

By Lisa Hagan
March 6, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 5, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.

Lisa Hagan

Lisa Hagan

It is often called the deadly four. Metabolic syndrome is on the rise in the United States. It is a group of four factors that increases the risk for heart disease, strokes and Type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high triglycerides or cholesterol.

Obesity is the most common risk factor. It is not just having a high body mass index, but it is carrying extra weight around the middle and upper parts of the body. Individuals who have extra weight around their waist, what we describe as an apple shape, are at risk. Those with an abdominal girth measuring 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women should be tested for the other risk factors.

The other risk factors include the following:

Insulin resistance. Fasting blood sugars equal to or higher than 100 milligrams per decilitre.

Elevated blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg is another risk factor.

High triglycerides higher than 150 mg/dL or low HDL (healthy) cholesterol. Men under 40 mg/dL and women under 50 mg/dL are at high.

Those diagnosed with Metabolic syndrome should be treated aggressively. A plan to achieve healthy body weight and diet is the ideal goal. Weight loss can improve these risk factors and should be set as a goal.

Some individuals have difficulty losing weight. Do not be discouraged. The good news is that change in diet and exercise can improve these risks even without the presence of weight loss. Healthy dietary changes can help lower blood pressure and improve lipid levels. Regular exercise can improve insulin sensitivity even in the absence of weight loss. However, the ultimate goal is weight loss.

Lisa Hagan is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to



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