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.
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 blacks.
Other groups at increased risk for metabolic syndrome include:
- People who have a personal history of diabetes
- People who have a sibling or parent who has diabetes
- Women when compared with men
- 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 coronary heart disease. Other risk factors, besides metabolic syndrome, also increase your risk for heart disease. For example, a high LDL (“bad”) 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 Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors Health Topic.
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. 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 estimate your 10-year risk of having a heart attack.
- 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 percent to 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 coronary heart disease over time.