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Women's Heart & Vascular Health
Center for Women's Heart & Vascular Health
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You Should Know

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Straight Talk About Metabolic Syndrome

Dr. Coulter with St. Luke's nurse."Being screened for diabetes is an important step all women in their middle years need to take. We used to have no way of diagnosing early diabetes," says Dr. Stephanie Coulter. "Now we can identify insulin resistance which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease."  

The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic risk factors resulting from obesity and insulin resistance which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and often leads to type 2 diabetes. The condition is progressive and is exacerbated by age, inactivity and other genetic and endocrine factors. Three out of five criteria are required for diagnosis and are easily identified by routine clinical and laboratory measurements. 

Criteria for Metabolic Syndrome*
(requires 3 of 5 for diagnosis) 

1)  Abdominal obesity as measured by waist circumference
     Male     greater than 40 inches or 102 centimeters             
     Female  greater than 35 inches or 88 centimeters  

2)  Triglycerides 
      greater than 150 mg/dl  

3)  HDL                                    
     Male     less than 40 mg/dl             
     Female  less than 50 mg/dl  

4)  Hypertension  
     Blood Pressure greater than 130/85 mmHg  

5)  Fasting serum glucose 
     greater than 100 mg/dl 


By understanding their overall and individual risks, women can modify them by changing their behavior. Changing habits ingrained over many years isn't easy. Exercise is the most important first step to reduce the risks for diabetes. Regular conditioning exercise alone has been repeatedly shown to reduce the metabolic syndrome and the transition to type 2 diabetes.  

Annual visits to your primary care doctor after menopause are very important. Measurement of blood pressure, fasting cholesterol levels and glucose can identify women who are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Don't miss this opportunity to improve your life expectancy.

Learn about these topics in the Heart Information Center.

Metabolic Syndrome

* Adapted from NCEP ATP III/AHA. For further discussion of these guidelines, see the American Heart Association topic on metabolic syndrome: .

Updated January 2015
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