Prevention and Diagnosis


A healthy lifestyle is accomplished following an appropriate balanced diet and performing physical activity. This is supported by most metabolic syndrome prevention and patient education programs recently developed in western countries to modify the diet and lifestyle and, most importantly, recommend regular physical activity. In the U.S., the Healthy People 2020 program identified physical activity as one of the main health care national goals, while the WHO-Europe Action Plan 2012–2016 adopted projects supporting and promoting physical activity. In Italy, the 2014-2018 National Health Plan emphasized the importance of physical activity for health and focuses on the issue of sedentary lifestyles as a cause of diabetes mellitus. In this respect, any initiative studying and monitoring the national scenario while also promoting prevention, physical activity and an appropriate lifestyle is of the upmost importance.


Metabolic syndrome is the result of the coexistence of obesity, arterial hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. This clinical condition is related to an extremely high risk of cardiovascular problems. There is a general consensus within the scientific community on defining patients at risk of metabolic syndrome as individuals presenting three or more of the following associated symptoms: waist size greater than 102 cm (men) and 88 cm (women); arterial hypertension higher than 130 (maximum) and 90 (minimum); fasting plasma glucose greater than 110 mg/dl; cholesterol over 200 mg/dl; triglycerides higher than 150 mg/dl. Bad nutrition habits and insufficient physical activity induce profound metabolic changes, referred to as metabolic syndrome, of which overweight and obesity are only the most obvious manifestations. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke)
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic diseases of the liver (steatohepatitis, cirrhosis)
  • Cancer (especially of the liver, gallbladder, colon …)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases (dementia, depression)

Over the last few years, the WHO has drawn attention to a spreading health problem in countries with advanced economies: an “epidemic of obesity and diabetes” (globesity) caused by inappropriate diet (excessive consumption of sugar, saturated fats, and alcoholic beverages) and a sedentary lifestyle. In Italy, 18 million of people are overweight, and 5 million people are obese (Italian Obesity Barometer Report, IBDO-ISTAT, 2019). The link between obesity, poor health outcomes and all-cause mortality is well established. Obesity increases the likelihood of diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon). The cardiovascular diseases are still the leading cause of death in Italy.