The metabolic syndrome is a constellation of interrelated abnormalities that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and progression to type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of this syndrome is increasing because of the ‘obesity epidemic’. The National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III defined practical criteria for the diagnosis of the metabolic syndrome and established the basic principles for its management. Also, the International Diabetes Federation recently proposed another definition. The metabolic syndrome is a secondary target for cardiovascular risk reduction. Clinicians should identify individuals with this condition, assess their cardiovascular risk and treat them by an aggressive and multifaceted approach. The most effective therapeutic intervention in patients with the metabolic syndrome should focus on modest weight reduction and regular physical activity. Adoption of a healthier diet and smoking cessation are necessary. Drug therapy may be needed to achieve recommended goals if therapeutic lifestyle changes are not sufficient. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is the primary target of therapy (new aggressive goals should be achieved). Statins are probably the drugs of choice. Fibrates and nicotinic acid are also useful options. Hypertension should be managed aggressively probably starting with an inhibitor of the renin-angiotensin system or a calcium channel blocker and adding a low dose of a thiazide diuretic if necessary. Aspirin should be administered if the cardiovascular risk is high. In the future acarbose, metformin, meglitinides and thiazolidinediones may be used in patients with the metabolic syndrome to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and reduce cardiovascular risk. Such an intense and multifactorial approach is likely to reverse the bad prognosis associated with the metabolic syndrome.