Metabolic Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Exercise and metabolic syndrome

A sustainable exercise program, for example 30 minutes five days a week is reasonable to start, providing there is no medical contraindication. (If you have any special concerns in this regard, check with your doctor first.) There is a beneficial effect of exercise on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity, regardless of whether weight loss is achieved or not. Thus, exercise in itself is a helpful tool in treating metabolic syndrome.

Cosmetic surgery to remove fat

Some people may ask: Why not just have liposuction of the abdomen and remove the large amount of abdominal fat that is a big part of the problem? Data thus far shows no benefit in liposuction on insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, or cholesterol. As the saying goes, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." Diet and exercise are still the preferred primary treatment of metabolic syndrome.

What if lifestyle changes are not enough to treat metabolic syndrome?

What if changes in lifestyle do not do the trick, what then? Drugs to control cholesterol levels, lipids, and high blood pressure may be considered.

If someone has already had a heart attack, their LDL ("bad") cholesterol should be reduced below 70mg/dl. A person who has diabetes has a heart attack risk equivalent to that of someone who has already one and so should be treated in the same way. If you have metabolic syndrome, a detailed discussion about lipid therapy is needed between you and your doctor, as each individual is unique.

Blood pressure goals are generally set lower than 130/80. Some blood pressure medications offer more benefits than simply lowering blood pressure. For example, a class of blood pressure drugs called ACE inhibitors has been found to also reduce the levels of insulin resistance and actually deter the development of type 2 diabetes. This is an important consideration when discussing the choice blood pressure drugs in the metabolic syndrome.

The discovery that a drug is prescribed for one condition, and has other beneficial effects is not new. Drugs used to treat high blood sugar and insulin resistance may have beneficial effects on blood pressure and cholesterol profiles.

Metformin (Glucophage), usually used to treat type 2 diabetes, also has been found to help prevent the onset of diabetes in people with metabolic syndrome. However, there are currently no established guidelines on treating metabolic syndrome patients with metformin if they do not have overt diabetes.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2016
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