Are You at Risk for Metabolic Syndrome?

Published: June 29, 2022
Barbara Young
By Barbara Young, PharmD

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels, and affects nearly one-third of all adults in the United States. But many folks are not familiar with this condition and the serious effects it can have on their health. Metabolic syndrome doesn’t cause many symptoms, so most people are unaware that they have it or are at risk.

What are the factors associated with metabolic syndrome?
There are five possible factors defined in metabolic syndrome. If you have three or more of these factors, then you are likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

  1. Extra fat in your abdominal area, often described as being “apple-shaped.” This is defined as a waist measurement greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women
  2. High blood pressure
  3. High triglyceride levels
  4. High blood sugar
  5. Low HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) levels

Additional risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having an unhealthy diet and eating large portions
  • Lack of activity or exercise
  • Genetics (inherited traits)
  • Older age
  • Being female
  • Race – higher risk in Mexican Americans, followed by whites and Blacks
  • Having diabetes or having a close family member with diabetes (parent, sibling)
  • Women with polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Problems with your immune system

How can my pharmacist help me decrease the risks of metabolic syndrome?
You can’t change your age or genetics, but you can make changes to improve many of the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. Making important lifestyle changes along with starting medication treatment can help to control the effects of metabolic syndrome.

One critical strategy is to maintain a healthy weight. You can do this by eating a healthy diet, limiting portion size, and exercising regularly. If you need to lose weight, talk to your pharmacist about weight loss strategies, including the use of medications that may help you reach your weight goals.

Your pharmacist can also check to see if you are taking any medications that may contribute to weight gain. Lastly, make other lifestyle changes to stop smoking, moderate your use of alcohol, and get an appropriate amount of good quality sleep.

If your doctor has prescribed medications for the management of your blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol, but sure to ask your pharmacist any questions that you have about taking them. Your pharmacist also can help you to select and operate home use devices to check your blood pressure and blood glucose.

It is vital to keep your risk factors for metabolic syndrome under control. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise, and keep your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure within normal ranges. Be sure to check in with your pharmacist and doctor regularly to monitor and maintain your goals.






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