How to Test for Metabolic Syndrome

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Stacy Henigsman
Nutritionally Reviewed by
Felice Ramallo, RDN

Have you ever heard of Metabolic Syndrome? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Metabolic Syndrome sounds like one disease, but it’s actually a cluster of related conditions that, when combined, can increase your risk of severe health issues like Heart Disease, Stroke and Type 2 Diabetes. The good news is that you can test for Metabolic Syndrome and take steps to manage your symptoms and protect your health. In this article, we will dive into the signs and symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome and the importance of getting tested. Whether you’re already familiar with the term or this is your first time hearing about it, we’ll break it all down in a way that’s easy to understand and helps you make the best decision for you and your health.

Metabolic Syndrome Explained Through the Lens of Women's Health

Sometimes referred to as “Insulin Resistance Syndrome,” “Syndrome X,” and “Hypertriglyceridemic Waist,” Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of factors that together can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. This is a pretty big deal because heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., accounting for one in three deaths annually. Understanding these risk factors can save your life–they include:

  • High blood pressure
  • A high fasting blood glucose level
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels
  • A waist measurement of more than 35 inches

Women are at a slightly increased risk of being diagnosed with Metabolic syndrome, and hormones may be one of the culprits. For example, research suggests that weight gain related to menopause may increase the risk of Metabolic Syndrome. Other hormonal conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can make it challenging to maintain a healthy weight and stable blood sugar levels. Understanding how these factors interact is crucial for taking proactive steps to manage health, reduce risks, and make informed decisions about your health.

When to Consider Metabolic Syndrome Testing

You may want to consider testing for Metabolic Syndrome for a few reasons. Beyond the risk factors we previously discussed, if you’ve recently been pregnant or are approaching menopause, those hormonal changes can be a risk factor. Other reasons to consider testing include recent weight gain around the midsection, unexplained fatigue, or a family history of diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. Early testing can help catch these risk factors, allowing you to take steps to manage your health and reduce the possibility of developing serious conditions further down the road. So, if you’re ticking any of these boxes, it might be time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. It’s always good to monitor your health and note any changes to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. 

Testing for Metabolic Syndrome: What to Expect

Because Metabolic Syndrome is a collection of risk factors, a diagnosis requires a few separate lab tests and a physical exam. Let’s break down each test and what it measures.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is when your readings are consistently 130/85 mmHg or higher. Physical changes like pregnancy and weight gain can bump up your risk. There is a misconception that women are less likely than men to have high blood pressure, but over 40% of women are diagnosed with it annually.

Fasting Blood Glucose

A blood glucose test is a simple way to check how much sugar is in your blood. Because eating triggers a release of glucose into the blood, your healthcare provider will most likely have you fast for eight to ten hours before the test. Fasting blood glucose levels above 100 mg/dL are considered above healthy numbers.

Cholesterol Levels

The cholesterol test is a blood test called a “Lipid Panel,” which is conducted after an eight-to-ten-hour fasting period. The test measures total cholesterol, Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and Triglycerides. If your test results show a low HDL cholesterol level, that could be a problem.

Waist Circumference

Higher visceral fat, which are fat deposits around internal organs such as the stomach, intestines, and liver, is dangerous for heart health. For women, some hormonal changes, such as menopause, can be a risk factor for developing visceral fat. 

You should prepare for Metabolic Syndrome testing by fasting at least eight to ten hours before blood tests and noting your family medical history and recent changes to your energy levels, weight gain or other health concerns. During the testing process, you will most likely have a physical exam, your blood pressure taken and then blood drawn for lab tests. 

Metabolic Syndrome and Related Conditions: A Closer Look

As we mentioned earlier, Metabolic Syndrome isn’t just a standalone issue; it’s closely linked to several other serious chronic conditions. For example, women with PCOS (which affects ~10% of women of childbearing age) tend to gain fat around the waist and stomach. Type II Diabetes is also associated with high fasting blood glucose levels, and high cholesterol and high blood pressure are often symptoms of Heart Disease. These conditions can go hand-in-hand with a Metabolic Syndrome diagnosis, so knowing how they’re connected can help you and your healthcare provider manage your overhaul health and lower the risk of developing something more serious down the line.

Beyond Diagnosis: Metabolic Syndrome Diagnosis Management 

Luckily, you can manage and even reverse some of the risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome with lifestyle changes. Regular exercise and a diet rich in heart-healthy foods like non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats not only support better cardiovascular health but can help maintain a healthy weight and increase your levels of good cholesterol. Sometimes, your healthcare provider may prescribe different medications to manage individual risk factors, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. Treating Metabolic Syndrome requires a personalized approach that considers your age, family medical history, physical level and where you are in your life. There is no one-size-fits-all “cure” for Metabolic Syndrome, but you can manage the symptoms and improve your health outcomes with the right approach.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome and need support managing your symptoms, you’re not alone. At Allara Health, we support women post-diagnosis with tailored care plans, lifestyle coaching, and access to specialists. Check now and see if Allara’s treatment options are right for you.

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