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What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Nearly 1 in 4 adults have the bundle of risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome. What is metabolic syndrome? Should you be worried?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of physical conditions, or risk factors, that together increase your likelihood of developing health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. While not a singular disease in and of itself, the imbalances and abnormalities that contribute to metabolic syndrome can be dangerous indicators of future health problems.

Metabolic syndrome doesn’t have symptoms, not in the traditional sense of symptoms being the manifestation of new physical problems that point to a specific disease. With the exception of excess belly fat, metabolic syndrome is largely asymptomatic. There aren’t any symptoms to let you know you have metabolic syndrome. But metabolic syndrome is itself a symptom that points to other, more serious diseases and conditions.

The Conditions that Make Up Metabolic Syndrome

There are several conditions that can fall under the classification of metabolic syndrome when taken together. They are:

  • High blood pressure or 130 / 85 or greater
  • A large waist circumference of greater than 40 inches in men, and greater than 35 inches in women’ also known as abdominal (or central) obesity, as calculated by the Index of Central Obesity
  • High fasting blood sugar of 100 mg/dL or greater
  • Low HDL, less than  40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women
  • High level of triglycerides in the blood, of 150 mg/dL or greater

Demonstrating at least three of the five indicators concurrently is a sign that you may have metabolic syndrome, and be at risk for heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.

The Dangers of Metabolic Syndrome

Any one of the above-listed conditions can inhibit the normal function of your body, and lead to a breakdown in the way you process glucose.

Metabolic syndrome affects nearly 1 in 4 adults today, according to the American Heart Association. The combination of risk factors that lead to a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome means you are twice as likely to develop heart disease, and five times more likely to develop diabetes than someone without metabolic syndrome. But finding out if you have metabolic syndrome generally requires testing.

Ethnicity and family history are thought thought to play a role in whether you develop metabolic syndrome. As well, a couple of other genetic conditions such as gallstones, polycystic ovarian syndrome, a fatty liver, and sleep apnea are indicators that you may have an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Women also seem to be more susceptible, especially women who are overweight or obese.

Even if you get regular exercise, spending too much time on the couch can put you at risk. In fact, a study found that men who watched more than 40 hours of television per week were three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with those who spent less than 1 h per week watching TV.

A diet high in sugar can also contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to prediabetes. Sugar includes carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose and have an immediate effect on blood sugar.

Flooding your body with sugar every few hours paves the way for your cells to sort of desensitize to it, creating insulin resistance, a condition in which your body no longer responds appropriately to insulin and your blood sugar levels stay elevated. Not only does this disrupt the normal functioning of your body, but consistently high blood sugar wreaks havoc on your pancreas, promotes sugar cravings, and promotes premature aging.

Not worth it.

Undoing the Damage of Metabolic Syndrome

You can stop and even reverse metabolic syndrome. Simple changes in your diet and exercise can help you avoid developing metabolic syndrome, and even keep metabolic syndrome from turning into something more severe.

Exercise. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate to intense exercise five days a week is all you need to keep metabolic syndrome at bay. Both strength training and aerobic exercise will help improve your body’s sensitivity to glucose, stimulate your metabolism, and burn calories.

Lose a few pounds. Believe it or not, dropping just eight to ten pounds makes a big difference in your blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol numbers. So, set small, attainable goals and stay focused on your goals to stay motivated.

Eat for performance. Include more plant-based foods in your diet. By doing this, you increase your intake of fiber and you give yourself a better variety of nutrients.  Adopting the ketogenic diet is a good start, but don’t forget that eating for performance and eat for results requires a balanced nutrition plan.

While metabolic syndrome can progress into some pretty serious health concerns, it’s really just a combination of manageable conditions that can be prevented and even reversed with smarter decisions that support a healthy lifestyle.


Image from Freepik

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