In This Section      

Johns Hopkins Health - Weighing the Risks

Fall 2010
Issue No. 10

Weighing the Risks

Date: October 20, 2010

two feet on a scale

Obesity can tip the scale toward metabolic syndrome

It’s common knowledge that being overweight is a controllable risk factor in a host of health problems. And if you’re keeping score on those problems, you can add one more, and it’s a biggie: metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that can significantly increase your odds of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke or peripheral artery disease.

“It’s like a big stop sign that says you need to stop what you’re doing and rethink what’s going on with your health,” says Johns Hopkins endocrinologist Annabelle Rodriguez, M.D. “Our goal is to find people well before they develop diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome gives people plenty of warning signs, which are strongly linked to being overweight and obese.”

No one likes admitting they’re overweight, but it’s a critical conversation to have with your doctor. Begin by measuring your waist circumference, which should be 40 inches or less for men and 35 inches or less for women. Also, check your body mass index (BMI), which uses your height and weight to measure body fat. Aim for a BMI of less than 25.

The numbers won’t lie. If they tell you that you’re overweight, it’s time to take action.

“Acknowledge the truth,” Rodriguez says, “and get appropriate nutrition counseling, targets for weight loss and exercises that are age-appropriate and customized for whatever medical issues you may have.”

Although it’s important to manage all the risk factors of metabolic syndrome, which may require some medication, getting to a healthy weight is at the top of the list. Losing weight often returns blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol to normal levels, which may eliminate the need for medication.

“You have to commit the time and discipline to a new way of eating and exercising, which isn’t easy,” Rodriguez says, “but weight loss can help tremendously in reducing your risk factors for metabolic syndrome.”

5 Small Signs of Big Trouble
Current criteria for diagnosing metabolic syndrome are the presence of three or more of these risk factors:

  • A large abdomen
  • High blood pressure, even if it’s being treated
  • Elevated fasting blood glucose
  • High triglycerides (a type of fat in your body)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (the “good” or “healthy” kind)

What’s more, Johns Hopkins researchers like Annabelle Rodriguez, M.D., continue uncovering additional warning signs of metabolic syndrome, such as low male hormone levels in men.

Are You at Risk for Metabolic Syndrome?
Schedule an appointment today. Call Johns Hopkins at 877-546-1872.