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What Defines a Metabolic Disorder? Here’s What You Should Know

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 11, 2022

What Defines a Metabolic Disorder? Here’s What You Should Know

We often hear people saying that it’s either you have a fast metabolism or a slow one, which, in effect, makes you slim or fat. But, is that true? Does this idea apply also when you have a metabolic disorder? What are the symptoms and how can you prevent it from taking effect on your body? Find out here. 

A person’s metabolism works to allow the body in getting energy from the food one eats, be it fats, proteins, or carbohydrates. The chemicals in the digestive system then break down these food compounds into sugars and acids. This, later on, becomes the fuel of your body to do activities on a daily basis. 

But, What Defines a Metabolic Disorder?

The term metabolic disorder refers to a group of conditions that take place alongside one another. Thus, increasing the likelihood of a person developing any of the following diseases:

It happens when there is a disruption in the way the body’s normal chemical reactions function. In some cases, all three conditions may take place at the same time. 

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) lists the metabolic factors:

Abdominal obesity

This entails having a waist circumference that is greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. This type of obesity is strongly linked to metabolic disorder. 

Blood pressure of 130/80 mm Hg (or higher)

Obesity is highly associated with high blood pressure, which is frequently observed in individuals who are resistant to insulin.  

Impairment in the fasting blood glucose

This corresponds to a level of 100 mg/dL or higher.

High triglyceride levels (150 mg/dL or more)

Triglycerides refer to the type of fat present in the bloodstream. Higher value depicts higher fat storage that may affect the blood flow and other nutrients. 

Low levels of HDL cholesterol

A person needs a good amount of high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol. This is to maintain levels of cholesterol coming in and out of the bloodstream. For men, it should be less than 40 mg/dL while less than 50 mg/dL for women.

What Are Metabolic Disorder Symptoms?

Signs and symptoms may depend on what particular metabolic disorder it is, but a few common ones include:

  • High body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Low HDL cholesterol 
  • High fasting blood sugar
  • Acanthosis nigricans (darkening of the skin as a sign of insulin resistance)

In babies and children, unintended weight loss or failure to gain weight and increase height is common. Some cases also reveal signs of fatigue and appetite loss.

What Are the Risk Factors of Metabolic Disorder?

Below are some factors that increase the chances of developing a metabolic disorder:

  • Age (the older you get, the higher the risk of having a metabolic disorder)
  • Ethnicity
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Other diseases (i.e., nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, and even obstructive sleep apnea)

How Can You Prevent a Metabolic Disorder?

There are many ways in which you can reverse or prevent the onset of metabolic disorder.  Because physical inactivity and excess weight are the primary underlying factors, you may do the following:

  • Doing regular exercises
  • Starting healthy eating practices
  • Considering some dietary changes

All these and more can help you maintain a healthy weight to prevent you from developing a metabolic disorder. 

Key Takeaway

It takes a lifetime commitment to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent developing a metabolic disorder. 

Make sure to consult your doctor if you are concerned about any of these signs or risk factors pertaining to your metabolic rate.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Expertly reviewed by

Chris Icamen

Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 11, 2022

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