A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

The more risk factors you have for metabolic syndrome, the greater your likelihood of developing it. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk. People with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of heart disease , stroke , and type 2 diabetes .

Metabolic syndrome is believed to be due to a combination of genetic factors (ie, health factors that you inherited from your family) and environmental factors (including lifestyle choices that you make, such as the foods you eat and your level of physical activity).

These genetic and/or environmental factors include:

  • Age—The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age.
    • Among those ages 40 and up, 40% have metabolic syndrome
  • Gender—African American women has an increased risk (5 fold) than men. Mexican American women have an increased risk (3 fold) than men.
  • Socioeconomic status—Lower income families have a higher risk.
  • Obesity
    • You are more likely to develop many of the underlying conditions of metabolic syndrome if you are overweight and if that extra weight is found around your waist, giving you an apple-shaped body.
    • Fat distribution around the waist is a better guide than body mass index (BMI)—a measure of your weight in relation to your height that determines if you are overweight—in determining whether you will develop metabolic syndrome.
  • Genes—Having a family history of some of these disorders may increase your chances of developing metabolic syndrome:
  • Diabetes—This is a condition in which your body either cannot produce insulin (a hormone that regulates sugar in your body) or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
  • High blood pressure
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels —This includes:
    • Elevated triglycerides—a kind of fat found in your blood
    • Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels—often referred to as “good cholesterol,” breaks down and removes cholesterol from the body
  • Ethnicity —The highest prevalence of metabolic syndrome is found in Mexican Americans (approximately 32%), particularly Mexican American women, Caucasians (approximately 24%), and African Americans (approximately 22%).
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet—Consuming a diet high in calories, sugar, saturated fats, and starchy foods (eg, bread, cereal, rice, pasta, potatoes), and low in dietary fiber increases your risk. If you're a soda drinker, you may have switched to diet brand thinking that it is a healthier choice. However, there is evidence that drinking a lot of dietsoda may even increase your risk of metabolic syndrome.
  • Unhealthy habits (eg, smoking)