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Metabolic syndrome screening: The little-known health care perk that can save your life

Written by Aetna By: Aetna

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Got 20 minutes? That’s all it takes to learn what the future may hold for your health. One quick screening can catch several common health problems early on, before they become serious (and costly). And many companies today offer it to their workers for free.

It’s called metabolic syndrome screening. Below, you’ll find out what metabolic syndrome is and what a screening involves. Plus, if you’re told you have metabolic syndrome, you’ll learn steps you can take to improve your health.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome refers to the group of conditions that lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Nearly one in four Americans is at high risk ― and many of us don’t even know it.

What is a metabolic syndrome screening?

The screening measures five things: your waistline, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol level, triglyceride level and fasting blood sugar. If three or more factors are outside the normal range, you have metabolic syndrome. Here’s more information about each factor:

  • Waistline. People who gain weight in the belly area have a higher risk of developing heart problems than people who gain weight in other parts of the body, such as the hips. During the screening, a health professional will measure your waist in inches. A large waistline is considered 35 inches or more for women, and 40 inches or more for men.
  • Blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measurement of how forcefully your blood presses against your arteries. If your blood pressure is high, your arteries can become damaged, which can cause heart disease. Blood pressure is measured using a cuff around your upper arm. A reading above 130/85 mmHg is considered unhealthy. Learn more about how high blood pressure affects your health.
  • HDL cholesterol. HDL is often called the “good” cholesterol. It helps remove LDL or “bad” cholesterol from your arteries. If your HDL cholesterol is too low, you are at a higher risk of developing health problems. A blood test will measure your cholesterol levels. A low HDL cholesterol level is less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men. Learn more about how cholesterol affects your health.
  • Triglycerides. This is a type of fat found in the blood. People who have a high triglyceride level have a greater risk of developing heart disease. A blood test will measure your triglycerides. A normal level is under 150 mg/dL.
  • Fasting blood sugar. If you have high levels of sugar in your blood, you have a greater risk of developing diabetes. A fasting blood test, usually done in the morning before breakfast, will give the most accurate measurement. If your level is over 100 mg/dL, you have high blood sugar.

Learn how technology makes managing diabetes easier and more effective.

If I have metabolic syndrome, what should I do?

First of all, don’t panic. A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is your early warning alarm. By acting now, you may avoid a serious health crisis like a heart attack or stroke. Depending on your health history, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following steps:

Watch how Larry Beach took control of his health after a biometric screening.

If you get a metabolic syndrome screening through work, you’ll receive a report listing your risk factors and discussing what you can do to lessen those risks in easy-to-understand terms. You can also talk to your doctor about what lifestyle changes you should be focusing on. If lifestyle changes don’t work, prescription medications are available to help control your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.

By taking control of your health, you can feel better and save money. You can even reduce your risk of heart attack by 80%. And who doesn’t have time for that?