Healthy lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment for metabolic syndrome. Lifestyle changes include losing weight, being physically active, following a heart healthy diet, and quitting smoking.
If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your doctor may prescribe medicines. Medicines are used to treat and control risk factors such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and high blood sugar.
Blood-thinning medicines, such as aspirin, also may be used to reduce the risk of blood clots. Excessive blood clotting is a condition that often occurs with metabolic syndrome.
The major goal of treating metabolic syndrome is to reduce the risk of heart disease. Treatment is directed first at lowering LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure and managing diabetes (if these conditions are present).
The second goal of treatment is to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes (if it hasn't already developed). Long-term complications of diabetes often include heart and kidney disease, vision loss, and foot or leg amputation.
If diabetes is present, the goal of treatment is to reduce your risk for heart disease by controlling all of your risk factors.
The main focus of treating metabolic syndrome is managing the risk factors that are within your control, such as overweight or obesity, an unhealthy diet, and an inactive lifestyle.
If you have metabolic syndrome and are overweight or obese, your doctor will likely recommend weight loss. He or she can help you create a weight-loss plan and goals.
The long-range target is to lower your body mass index (BMI) to less than 25. BMI measures your weight in relation to your height and gives an estimate of your total body fat.
A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. A BMI of less than 25 is the goal for prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome.
You can calculate your BMI using the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI's) online calculator, or your health care provider can calculate your BMI.
For more information about losing weight or maintaining your weight, go to the Health Topics Overweight and Obesity article.
A heart healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet includes a variety of vegetables and fruits. These foods can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. A good rule is to try to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits.
A healthy diet also includes whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and protein foods, such as lean meats, poultry without skin, seafood, processed soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, and peas.
Choose and prepare foods with little sodium (salt). Too much salt can raise your risk for high blood pressure. Studies show that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can lower blood pressure.
Try to avoid foods and drinks that are high in added sugars. For example, drink water instead of sugary drinks, such as soda.
Also, try to limit the amount of solid fats and refined grains that you eat. Solid fats are saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Refined grains come from processing whole grains, which results in a loss of nutrients (such as dietary fiber).
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride level. Alcohol also adds extra calories, which can cause weight gain.
Aim for a healthy weight by staying within your daily calorie needs. Balance the calories you take in from food and drinks with the calories you use while doing physical activity.
For more information about following a healthy diet, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH" and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ChooseMyPlate.gov Web site. Both resources provide general information about healthy eating.
Physical activity can help keep your heart and lungs healthy. Many Americans are not active enough. The good news is that even modest amounts of physical activity are good for your health. The more active you are, the more you'll benefit.
Before starting any kind of exercise program or new physical activity, talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are safe for you.
The four main types of physical activity are aerobic, muscle-strengthening, bone strengthening, and stretching.
You can do physical activity with light, moderate, or vigorous intensity. The level of intensity depends on how hard you have to work to do the activity. People who have metabolic syndrome usually are urged to keep up a moderate level of activity.
For more information about physical activity, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' "2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans," the Health Topics Physical Activity and Your Heart article, and the NHLBI's "Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart."
If you smoke, quit. Smoking can raise your risk for heart disease and heart attack and worsen other heart disease risk factors. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.
If you have trouble quitting smoking on your own, consider joining a support group. Many hospitals, workplaces, and community groups offer classes to help people quit smoking.
If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help you control your risk factors. Medicines can help treat unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar.
Unhealthy cholesterol levels are treated with medicines such as statins, fibrates, or nicotinic acid. High blood pressure is treated with medicines such as diuretics or ACE inhibitors. High blood sugar is treated with oral medicines (such as metformin), insulin injections, or both.
Low-dose aspirin can help reduce the risk of blood clots, especially for people whose risk of heart disease is high.
Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Metabolic Syndrome, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.
November 20, 2013
Gary H. Gibbons
New NHLBI Program Trains Scientists to Bring More Science Out of the Lab and into the Patient Care Marketplace
The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.