The Link Between Metabolic Syndrome and Heart Disease

The link between metabolic syndrome and heart disease


When it comes to taking care of your heart health, it’s helpful to know the risk factors involved so you can get the right treatment. In the case of metabolic syndrome, many of the physiological traits, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and excess body weight, are the same risk factors involved in heart disease. The good news is, we know how to reduce these risk factors with heart-healthy nutrition and exercise.

What is metabolic syndrome?

According to the American Heart Association, metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and arterial disease. As many as 23 percent of adults currently suffer from metabolic syndrome.1 

In each case, affected individuals are often insulin resistant and present with three or more of the following common traits: 

  • Increased waist circumference
  • Blood pressure elevation
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • Hyperglycemia2

Insulin resistance affects how your body digests and absorbs carbohydrates and sugars, and is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.

        How is metabolic syndrome diagnosed?

        If your doctor believes you might have metabolic syndrome, he or she will perform a series of medical tests that may require separate visits. Starting with your waistline, your doctor will measure for abdominal obesity. A waistline greater than 40 inches or 102 cm in men, and 35 inches or 88 cm in women is considered high risk.

        Your doctor will also measure your blood pressure for signs of hypertension. A blood pressure reading of 130/85 or higher is an indicator of possible metabolic syndrome.

        Blood tests will also be needed to check for serum triglycerides or fatty acids in the blood. A reading of 150 mg/dl or more is considered too high. 

        Blood tests will also reveal if you have low HDL levels of cholesterol. Levels of 40mg/dl or lower in men and 50mg/dl or lower in women is considered high risk. 

        Finally, you will need a fasting blood glucose test to check for insulin resistance. A reading of 100 mg/dl or above is considered abnormal.

            What causes metabolic syndrome?

            Weight gain and increased belly fat can place you at a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Additionally, genetics, a family history of cardiovascular disease, physical inactivity, and getting older are all underlying factors. 

            What are the dangers of metabolic syndrome in relation to heart disease?

            With so many heart disease risk factors present in metabolic syndrome, there is an increased number of adverse conditions placed on the cardiovascular system. 

            For instance, excess body weight and high levels of LDL cholesterol increase your risk of developing fatty deposits along the walls of your arteries, leading to restricted blood flow and the risk of blood clots. As a result, your heart has to work harder to push the blood through the body. This in turn causes high blood pressure and over time, can weaken and damage the vitality of your arterial system. 

            With metabolic syndrome, the possibility of developing heart disease increases by two to four times.

            What is the treatment for metabolic syndrome?

            While medication may be necessary to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol, adopting healthy lifestyle habits is highly recommended to reduce your risk factors.

            A heart-healthy diet like the Mediterranean Diet is a good nutrition program to follow. Rich in nutrient-dense foods that are high in antioxidants and health-promoting properties, the Mediterranean Diet can teach you how to swap unhealthy options for wholesome ingredients. 

            You can find more helpful information about this nutrition plan in our blog: The Basics of a Mediterranean Diet.

            To help you trim down your waistline and improve your cardiovascular system, it is advised that you follow a regular exercise program or take up a sport that you enjoy. Becoming more physically active doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as going for a brisk walk every day. In addition, you’ll want to work on conditioning your muscles with some strength training exercises at least twice a week.

            For more tips on staying physically active, read our blog: How To Start A Heart-Healthy Exercise Routine.   

            By addressing the various medical conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, you can work towards reducing your symptoms and improving the health of your heart.




            1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/American Heart Association; Nov 7, 2005. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.105.539528
            2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/American Heart Association; Jan 27, 2004. DOI: 10.1161/01.CIR.0000111245.75752.C6

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