You or someone you know probably has metabolic syndrome. It’s a widespread cluster of conditions that affects as many as one out of every four people.
Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of risk factors that increase the chances of heart attacks, diabetes, and other serious conditions. The main causes are obesity and inactivity.
Since it’s a relatively new diagnosis, many are still unfamiliar with metabolic syndrome. The good news is that lifestyle changes are usually an effective treatment. Learn how to protect yourself and your family from this health issue.
Introduction to Metabolic Syndrome
- Understand the 5 factors. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome means having at least 3 of the 5 known risk factors. These include excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. The other 2 components relate to unhealthy cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
- Look at the big picture. Some experts disagree about whether metabolic syndrome accurately predicts heart conditions and diabetes. Just remember that all 5 of the risk factors are significant and can usually be controlled by eating better and exercising more.
- Assess your risk. Obesity, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles top the list of factors that can predispose you to metabolic syndrome. The condition is also more common among seniors and certain ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.
- Know your family medical history. Metabolic syndrome runs in families. Talk with your doctor about related conditions that affect you and your relatives. Especially relevant are diabetes, insulin resistance, hormone imbalances, heart conditions, and trouble with blood clotting.
Preventing and Managing Metabolic Syndrome
- Ask for a diagnosis. Since most symptoms of metabolic syndrome are invisible, it’s important to receive regular medical checkups. Simple tests can measure your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
- Eat sensibly. Diet plays a big role. Aim to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits. Whole grains and lean proteins, like beans and fish, are also good. Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietician if you’re interested in a special meal plan for diabetes or other conditions.
- Lose weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can have powerful effects. A 10% decrease in body weight may be enough to lower your blood pressure, control your blood sugar, and normalize your cholesterol levels.
- Choose healthy fats. The final element in your diet is fat. Your doctor can let you know if it’s advisable to stay below the usual guidelines of obtaining about 25 to 30% of your calories from fats. Whatever the number, focus on monounsaturated sources like olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
- Exercise regularly. Being active is also essential. Work your way to up to moderately intense exercise for 30 to 60 minutes per day. A gentle walk is a great way to get started.
- Quit smoking. Regardless of whether you have metabolic syndrome, avoiding tobacco products is good for your cardiovascular system. It often takes several attempts to quit smoking permanently. Give yourself as many chances as necessary.
- Take medication as prescribed. Your doctor may recommend medication. Several types of drugs have been proven effective, including blood pressure and diabetes medicines, as well as low dose aspirin.
You may be one of the 47 million Americans who have metabolic syndrome, but simple changes in behavior can dramatically lower your risks. Talk with your doctor about the best strategies for you. Managing your weight and keeping your heart healthy will help you to enjoy a long and active life.