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What is the Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X?

Wendy Bourne, R.N., C.D.E.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It affects one in five people and the prevalence increases with age. Some studies estimate the prevalence in the U.S. as high as 25 percent of the population.

Metabolic Syndrome also is known as Metabolic Syndrome X, Syndrome X, Insulin Resistance Syndrome, Reaven's Syndrome, and in Australia as CHAOS. A similar condition in overweight horses is referred to as Equine Metabolic Syndrome; it is unknown if they have the same cause or origin in horses as it does in humans.

People diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome usually have an associated group of disorders that include high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance, most with this syndrome often have an “apple-shaped” body. The apple-shaped body is associated with insulin resistance which is caused when the body’s cells are not able to use insulin properly. The increased insulin in the blood and improper use of insulin promotes fat storage around the belly. Researchers believe insulin resistance to be a major factor in those diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome.

What is insulin resistance? 

Insulin resistance is the resistance of its own cells to the hormone insulin which is responsible for transporting blood sugar into the cells. This leads to increased production of insulin by the pancreas and increased insulin and sugar in the blood.  It is estimated that 25-percent of the U.S. population is insulin resistant. 

Preventing metabolic syndrome:

• Keep total cholesterol less than 200, LDL cholesterol less than 100, and HDL (good) cholesterol greater than 40 in men and greater than 50 in women.
• Keep triglycerides less than 150.
• Keep blood pressure below 130/80.
• Maintain a waist-to-hip ratio less than 0.85 for women and 0.9 for men.
• Avoid refined carbohydrates and simple sugars such as candy, cookies, sodas and other sweets, which cause a spike in blood sugar.
• Avoid trans-fatty acids in the form of hydrogenated oils.
• Exercise regularly; walking after meals is effective for many people.
• A weight loss of 5 to 10 percent can reduce the chances of developing diabetes.
To learn more about Metabolic Syndrome or Insulin Resistance, contact your physician or attend a Diabetes Prevention class offered by the Diabetes Education Program at Flagstaff Medical Center. To learn more about diabetes prevention visit or call 928 773-2249.

Wendy Bourne, R.N., C.D.E., is a certified diabetic educator at Flagstaff Medical Center.