Metabolic Syndrome – What it is, causes and treatment

The metabolic syndrome , also known as Syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome, is not itself a disease, but rather a set of changes which when present together, increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus type 2 and various Other diseases.

In this article, we will explain what the metabolic syndrome is , what its criteria are and its health consequences.


As already mentioned in the introduction to the article, the metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself. In fact, there are even those who ask if it is really a syndrome.

The most current criteria say that a patient has metabolic syndrome if he has at least 3 of the 5 changes listed below:

– Obesidade abdominal, onde podemos dizer que é uma circunferência abdominal superior superior a 88 cm em mulheresa superior a 102 cm em homens.

– Blood triglyceride levels above 150 mg / dL or need to use medications to keep the rate below this value (read: WHAT ARE TRIGLYCERIDES? ).

– HDL cholesterol less than 40 mg / dL in men or less than 50 mg / dL in women or need to take medications to keep rates above these values (read: HDL CHOLESTEROL, LDL CHOLESTEROL AND TRIGLYCERIDES ).

– Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg or need to take medications to maintain controlled pressure (read: NORMAL VALUES OF BLOOD PRESSURE ).

– Fasting glycemia greater than or equal to 100 mg / dL or need to take medicines to keep values below this limit (read: PRE DIABETES – Diagnosis, Risks and Treatment ).

Therefore, we say that a patient has metabolic syndrome when he has an accumulation of certain changes that are known to be risk factors for diseases of cardiovascular origin.

The diagnosis of syndrome X is relevant because the presence of each one of these changes potentiates the damages of the others. For example, having high blood pressure is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, when a patient has high blood pressure, obesity and glycemia above 100 mg / dL, the harm of the three alterations is potentiated and the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher than expected by the simple sum of the individual risk of each of the 3 Changes.

The mechanism by which the metabolic syndrome increases the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, or stroke appears to be linked to increased insulin resistance and a pro-inflammatory action of fat cells.

We will talk about the diseases caused by the metabolic syndrome later on.


The metabolic syndrome is more common in patients who have the following characteristics:

  • Age over 40 years.
  • Menopause (in women).
  • Bad eating habits (diet rich in carbohydrates and saturated fats).
  • Smoking.
  • Overweight (BMI above 25 kg / m 2 ) – read: CALCULATE YOUR IDEAL WEIGHT AND BMI .
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Family history of diabetes.


Patients who meet criteria for syndrome X present a high risk of developing several potentially serious diseases. The two most important are type 2 diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease . In the metabolic syndrome, the risk of developing diabetes is 3 to 5 times higher than in the general population and the infarct is twice as high.

But the risks are not limited to diabetes or coronary heart disease. Studies show that patients with criteria for syndrome X are at higher risk of developing the following problems:

  • AVC .
  • Hepatic steatosis .
  • Obstructive sleep apnea .
  • Breast, kidney, gallbladder, colon and prostate cancers.
  • Psoriasis .
  • Pre-eclampsia .
  • Drop .
  • Chronic renal failure .
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome .


Initial treatment of the metabolic syndrome involves changes in lifestyle, including changes in diet and exercise habits. Medications can be used when diet and exercise are not enough.

1) Diet

Patients with the metabolic syndrome should avoid foods high in carbohydrates (soft drinks, candy, chocolate or any sugar-rich food) and saturated fats (fried foods, fast-food and fatty meats). Alcoholic beverages should also be consumed infrequently.

On the other hand, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and high fiber foods should take priority in the diet.

2) Physical exercises

The minimum exercise recommendation is 30 minutes daily or 150 minutes weekly of moderate intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Over time, as the patient gains physical fitness, the level of physical activity should increase.

The goal of diet and physical activity is to increase cardiovascular capacity, reduce fat percentage, and increase muscle mass, factors that help treat insulin resistance, excess cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

3) Medications

Among the drugs that can be used to treat the metabolic syndrome are statins for cholesterol control (read: STATINES – High Cholesterol Lowering Remedies ), antihypertensives and hypoglycemic agents , such as metformin (read: METHPHRINE – Dose, and side effects ).