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Metabolic Syndrome

A grouping of health conditions associated with an increased risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Conditions include hypertension, a large waist, high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, and above-normal blood glucose levels.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.

The term "metabolic" refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body's normal functioning. Risk factors are traits, conditions, or habits that increase your chance of developing a disease.

In this article, "heart disease" refers to coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary (heart) arteries.

Plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, reducing blood flow to your heart muscle. This can lead to chest pain, a heart attack, heart damage, or even death.

Metabolic Risk Factors

The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You can have any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome....Read more about Metabolic Syndrome
NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

A systematic review of thiazolidinedioes for metabolic syndrome

Bibliographic details: Gou Z P, Li X J, Wu T X.  A systematic review of thiazolidinedioes for metabolic syndrome. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2009; 9(5): 574-583

Lifestyle Interventions for Four Conditions: Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Breast Cancer, and Prostate Cancer [Internet]

To synthesize evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions to control progression of type 2 diabetes, progression to diabetes from metabolic syndrome, or recurrence of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Lifestyle interventions were defined as any intervention that included exercise, diet, and at least one other component (e.g., counseling, stress management, smoking cessation).

Lipid-modifying therapy for metabolic syndrome: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Gou ZP, Li XJ, Wu TX.  Lipid-modifying therapy for metabolic syndrome: a systematic review. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2009; 9(3): 355-364

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Summaries for consumers

The effect of antidepressants for women with polycystic ovary syndrome

The prevalence of depression in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is high; a study has shown it to be four times that of women without PCOS. Therefore, systematic evaluation of the effectiveness and safety of antidepressants for women with PCOS is important. We found no evidence to support the use or non‐use of antidepressants in women with PCOS, with or without depression. Well‐designed and well‐conducted randomised controlled trials with double blinding should be conducted.

Thalidomide for managing wasting syndrome (cachexia) in advanced cancer

This review aims to assess if thalidomide is an effective treatment for the wasting syndrome (know as cachexia) seen in patients with advanced cancer. However, there was not enough evidence to make an informed decision about the use of thalidomide for patients with advanced cancer who have this wasting syndrome. This means that thalidomide as a treatment for this wasting syndrome remains unproven and its use needs more testing. Additionally, this review highlighted that there may be undesirable side effects of thalidomide when used for this syndrome, which need to be looked at closely to ensure it is suitable for this group of patients.

Statins for the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may suffer from irregular periods, excessive hair growth (hirsutism) and acne (pimples). High levels of serum androgens (male hormone) are one of the main features of PCOS. There is no good evidence from this review that statins improve menstrual regularity, spontaneous ovulation rate, hirsutism or acne, either alone or in combination with the combined oral contraceptive pill. There is also no good evidence that statins have a beneficial effect on hirsutism or acne (pimples) associated with PCOS. In women with PCOS, statins are effective in reducing serum androgen levels and decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), but statins are not effective in reducing fasting insulin or insulin resistance. There is no good evidence available on the long‐term use of statins (alone or in combination) for the management of PCOS.

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Terms to know

Glucose (Dextrose)
A simple sugar the body manufactures from carbohydrates in the diet. Glucose is the body's main source of energy.
High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL Cholesterol)
HDL cholesterol stands for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is a fat found in the blood that takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal. Sometimes called "good" cholesterol.
Hypercholesterolemia (High Blood Cholesterol)
Abnormally high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
A condition present when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal. Also called high blood pressure. Hypertension can strain the heart, damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, and death.
Insulin Resistance
The body's inability to respond to and use the insulin it produces. Insulin resistance may be linked to obesity, hypertension, and high levels of fat in the blood.
One of the major forms of fat that is produced in the liver and found in the blood.

More about Metabolic Syndrome

Photo of an adult

Also called: Metabolic syndrome X, Insulin resistance syndrome, Metabolic syndromes, Insulin resistance syndromes

See Also: Coronary Heart Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Stroke

Other terms to know: See all 6
Glucose (Dextrose), High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL Cholesterol), Hypercholesterolemia (High Blood Cholesterol)

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