The first line treatment is change of lifestyle (i.e., caloric restriction and physical activity). However, drug treatment is frequently required. Generally, the individual disorders that comprise the metabolic syndrome are treated separately. Diuretics and ACE inhibitors may be used to treat hypertension. Cholesterol drugs may be used to lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, if they are elevated, and to raise HDL levels if they are low. Use of drugs that decrease insulin resistance, e.g., metformin and thiazolidinediones, is controversial; this treatment is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A 2003 study indicated that cardiovascular exercise was therapeutic in approximately 31% of cases. The most probable benefit was to triglyceride levels, with 43% showing improvement; but fasting plasma glucose and insulin resistance of 91% of test subjects did not improve.
These concerns have led to the American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes to issue a joint statement identifying eight major concerns on the clinical utility of the metabolic syndrome.
It is not contested that cardiovascular risk factors tend to cluster together, but what is contested is the assertion that the metabolic syndrome is anything more than the sum of its constituent parts.
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