People at greatest risk for metabolic syndrome have these underlying causes:
- Abdominal obesity (a large waistline)
- An inactive lifestyle
- Insulin resistance
Some people are at risk for metabolic syndrome because they take medicines that cause weight gain or changes in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
These medicines most often are used to treat inflammation, allergies, HIV, and depression and other types of mental illness.
Metabolic syndrome is more common in African American women and Mexican American women than in men of the same racial groups. The condition affects White women and men about equally.
Some racial and ethnic groups in the United States are at higher risk for metabolic syndrome than others. Mexican Americans have the highest rate of metabolic syndrome, followed by Whites and African Americans.
Worldwide, certain ethnic groups, such as South Asians, are at increased risk for metabolic syndrome.
Other groups at increased risk for metabolic syndrome include:
- People who have a sibling or parent who has diabetes
- People who have a personal history of diabetes
- Women who have a personal history of polycystic ovarian syndrome (a tendency to develop cysts on the ovaries)
Heart Disease Risk
Metabolic syndrome increases your risk for heart disease. Heart disease risk can be divided into short-term risk and long-term risk.
"Short-term risk" refers to the risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease in the next 10 years. "Long-term risk" refers to the risk of developing heart disease over your lifetime.
Other risk factors, besides metabolic syndrome, also increase your risk for heart disease. For example, a high LDL cholesterol level and smoking are major risk factors for heart disease. For details about all of the risk factors for heart disease, go to the Health Topics Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors article.
Even if you don't have metabolic syndrome, you should find out your short-term risk for heart disease. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) divides short-term heart disease risk into four categories, as shown below. Your risk category depends on which risk factors you have and how many you have.
Your risk factors are used to calculate your 10-year risk of developing heart disease. The NCEP has an online calculator that you can use to determine your 10-year heart disease risk score.
- High risk: You're in this category if you already have heart disease or diabetes, or if your 10-year risk score is more than 20 percent.
- Moderately high risk: You're in this category if you have two or more risk factors and your 10-year risk score is 10–20 percent.
- Moderate risk: You're in this category if you have two or more risk factors and your 10-year risk score is less than 10 percent.
- Lower risk: You're in this category if you have zero or one risk factor.
Even if your 10-year risk score isn't high, metabolic syndrome will increase your risk for heart disease over time. Thus, metabolic syndrome should be treated (mainly with lifestyle changes).