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Metabolic Syndrome

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a condition that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It is a very common and dangerous medical problem. If metabolic syndrome is not treated, your child is much more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. Decreasing your child’s risk factors by making healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent these health problems.

Your child may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if he has 3 or more of the following risk factors:

  • Excess weight (fat) around the waist
  • High levels of triglycerides in the blood
  • Low HDL cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure (130/85 or higher)
  • A fasting blood sugar (glucose) higher than normal

What is the cause?

The exact cause is not known. The risk is higher if your child:

  • Has a family history of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease
  • Doesn't get enough physical activity
  • Is overweight
  • Smokes
  • Eats a diet high in fats or carbohydrates

What are the symptoms?

Your child may not have any symptoms. If he does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Headaches
  • Getting tired easily
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Urinating a lot
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. He will have blood tests to measure:

  • Triglycerides
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Blood sugar

How is it treated?

The most important part of treatment is making healthy lifestyle changes:

  • More physical activity, as recommended by your healthcare provider, to improve your child’s fitness; help him lose weight; and lower blood pressure, triglycerides and blood sugar. Physical activity also raises HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
  • A healthier diet
  • Not smoking

If lifestyle changes don’t lower your child’s risk enough, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine. Your child may need to take more than one medicine, such as:

  • Blood pressure medicines to lower your child’s blood pressure and help prevent stroke and heart damage.
  • Cholesterol medicine to bring down high triglyceride levels. It can also raise HDL, or "good" cholesterol, levels. If your child smokes, quitting will also raise HDL.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition, make sure that your child:

  • Eats a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Gets more exercise, especially aerobic exercise. Ask your provider to give you a physical activity plan that tells you what kind of activity, and how much, is safe for your child. It’s best if your child starts slowly to avoid injury.
  • Doesn’t smoke and avoids secondhand smoke. Smoking lowers HDL and increases the risk for heart disease in other ways as well.
  • Loses weight if he is overweight and keeps a healthy weight. Even just a 10% weight loss may lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
  • Has cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and weight checked as often as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when he can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-02-09
Last reviewed: 2015-01-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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