Dealing with Metabolic Syndrome in Women

Dealing with Metabolic Syndrome in Women

Elina Dawoodani profile Authored by Elina Dawoodani on 13 Jun 2014 - 15:29.

The American Heart Association defines Metabolic Syndrome as a cluster of metabolic risk factors such as increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. When these occur together or in combination, the person is at risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. However, when you have a single risk factor, you do not have metabolic syndrome.

Studies have revealed that metabolic syndrome has affected more than 35 percent of the total adult population worldwide.

Why are women at risk?

The results of a national US study, carried out in June 2012, states that women are at a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome because they are likely to do less than 30 minutes of exercising in a day.  The study concludes that women are less active as compared to the male counterparts and hence are more prone to develop these deleterious conditions.

Moreover, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is a disease specific to women, are known to have high prevalence of obesity, insulin resistance, reduced lipid metabolism and high levels of androgens which increases the risk of cardiac diseases, thus resulting in metabolic syndrome.

Risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome:

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), if someone is diagnosed with any three of the below mentioned risk factors, then he is suffering from metabolic syndrome:

1. Abdominal Obesity: Having a large waistline (apple shaped body) is one of the most common risk factors. If you are an Indian woman, waistline of more than 32 inches puts you at risk.

2. Serum Triglyceride Levels: Serum triglyceride levels of more than 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood.

3. HDL: High density lipoprotein, commonly known as ‘HDL’ or ‘good cholesterol, helps remove cholesterol from arteries. Low levels of HDL can thus lead to cardiac ailments. Less than 50 milligrams per deciliter of blood in women is considered risky.

4. Blood Pressure: Blood pressure means the force that blood exerts on the arteries when the heart pumps. If the pressure is too high, the arteries may get damaged leading to plaque formation. If the systolic blood pressure is greater than 135 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure is greater than 85 mm Hg, then it should be categorized as one of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome.

5. High Blood Sugar: Fasting blood sugar of more than 100 milligrams per deciliter indicates onset of diabetes. Diabetes, in many cases, leads to cardiovascular diseases, and hence is a potential risk factor of metabolic syndrome.

Other risk factors include low physical activity, age and hormonal imbalance.

PCOS and Metabolic Syndrome (MS)

According to a research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, metabolic syndrome is common in polycystic ovarian syndrome, especially in women with high BMI and high insulin levels. Hyperinsulinemia is a common pathogenic factor for both PCOS and metabolic syndrome.

What is the threat?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of disorders that puts a person at risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Also, a person suffering from metabolic syndrome is generally resistant to insulin, and hence this syndrome is also known as insulin resistance syndrome.

People who suffer from metabolic syndrome are at risk of developing the following: Arthrosclerosis (fats gets deposited in the artery walls and narrow the passage of blood flow), coronory heart disease, stroke (occurs when the blood reaching the brain is interrupted by deposits in the blood vessels, cutting off oxygen and nutrients to the brain) and Type 2 diabetes.

Identification criteria for MS

A standardized cut-off for Asian population is available for identifying MS which suggests presence of increased waist circumference and other metabolic disturbances.


CUT-OFF (Females)


Height in cm – 100 (± 5 kgs)


≥ 23 kg/m²

Waist circumference

≥ 80cm

Waist: hip ratio**


Blood pressure

≥ 130/85 mmHg

Blood glucose

≥ 100 mg/dl

Blood triglyceride

≥ 150 mg/dl

Blood HDL

≤ 50 mg/dl


 Prevention and Treatment

  • Eat foods rich in omega 3, since they prevent inflammation of the heart. Omega 3 rich foods include fishes,  walnuts, flax seeds etc.
  • Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, since they are loaded with fiber and anti-oxidants which play a key role in prevention of cardiac ailments.
  • Avoid refined foods such as breads, biscuits and similar bakery products.
  • Avoid hydrogenated fat (vanaspati).
  • Opt for lean meat.
  • Have high protein food like fish, cereal-pulse combination foods etc.
  • Restrict excess consumption of salt and sugar.
  • Lose weight and monitor your cholesterol levels on a regular basis.
  • Exercise daily. Incorporate 150 minutes of activity in a week.
  • Monitor your risk factors.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Consume foods rich in Vitamin C such as oranges, avla, guava etc. as they boost the immune system.

Making lifestyle changes has proved to be the most effective way of combating metabolic syndrome. It is important to monitor lipid levels and anthopometric (measurement of the body) regularly. Consult a physician and dietician once in at least 6 months and get a health check up to identify any early signs of risk factors.






*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.