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Metabolic Syndrome



  • Metabolic syndrome is a common and serious medical problem that increases your child’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
  • Treatment includes healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating a variety of healthy foods, quitting smoking or using e-cigarettes, and increasing physical activity to help lower blood glucose (sugar) levels. Your child may need medicine to help control blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol.
  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider what symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them.


What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a condition that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It is a common and serious 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 or she 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 based on your child’s age and per your child’s healthcare provider
  • A fasting blood glucose (sugar) 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 or has obesity
  • Smokes
  • Eats food that is high in unhealthy fats or simple carbohydrates (carbs)

What are the symptoms?

Your child may not have any symptoms. Medical problems that come from metabolic syndrome develop over time. If your child 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. Your child will have blood tests to measure:

  • Triglycerides
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Blood glucose

How is it treated?

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

  • More physical activity as advised by your child’s healthcare provider to help your child improve fitness, lose weight, and lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood glucose. Physical activity also raises HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
  • Eating a variety of healthy foods
  • Not smoking or using e-cigarettes

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

How can I take care of my child?

It is possible to prevent or delay metabolic syndrome, mainly with lifestyle changes. A healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment.

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

  • Eats foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and simple carbs such as candy, sugar, and baked goods. Avoids foods and drinks that are high in added sugar. For example, teach your child to choose water instead of sugary drinks such as soda and juice.
  • Gets more physical activity, 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 or use e-cigarettes, and avoids secondhand smoke. Smoking lowers HDL and increases the risk for heart disease in other ways as well.
  • Loses weight if overweight and keeps a healthy weight.
  • Has cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and weight checked as often as advised by your healthcare provider.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child 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 Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2021-08-24
Last reviewed: 2020-12-30
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.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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