If you’ve been told by your physician that you have metabolic syndrome (also known as syndrome X or dysmetabolic syndrome), your risk for heart disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke is significantly increased. The metabolic syndrome is associated with liver and kidney problems, and even with risk of dementia and cognitive decline in the elderly.
However, metabolic syndrome can be treated and even eliminated through diet and weight loss. If you undertake the lifestyle changes that address metabolic syndrome early on, you can significantly change the future course of your health for the better, and are likely to extend both the length and quality of your life.
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is the name for a coexisting group of risk factors. You will be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you have at least three of the following risk factors, designated by the American Heart Association:
If your excess weight is concentrated around your stomach, sometimes called a beer belly or a spare tire, you are at more risk than a “pear-shaped” person whose excess weight is primarily concentrated in their hips and buttocks. Doctors have come to understand that a large waistline (abdominal obesity) is a strong indicator for future serious health risks. A waist circumference of 40 inches or more for men, and 35 inches or more for women will generally cause your physician to consider your obesity a metabolic risk factor.
2. High Blood Pressure
If you have higher than normal blood pressure (or you’re on prescription medicine to reduce blood pressure), you can be at risk for metabolic syndrome if other risk factors in this list also apply to you. Normally, “high blood pressure” or hypertension means that you have a systolic (top number) blood pressure measurement of 130 mm Hg or more, or a diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure measurement of 85 mm Hg or more.
3. Low HDL (good) Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol readings which are lower than normal (or a need for prescription medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol) are another risk factor for metabolic syndrome. HDL is sometimes called “good” cholesterol, because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. You are at risk if you have high-density lipoprotein (HDL) of less than 40 mg/dL for men or less than 50 mg/dL for women.
4. High Cholesterol
A higher than normal triglyceride level (or a need for medication to treat high triglycerides) is another risk factor. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in blood, and when test results reach the level of 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) or more, you’ll be told that you have high cholesterol. This is another risk factor for metabolic syndrome.
5. High Fasting Blood Sugar
If your fasting blood glucose test result is higher than normal (or you take prescription medicine to treat diabetes), you are at risk of the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. You are considered at risk if the test result is 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 5.6 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), or more.
What If I Am Diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome?
Any of these risk factors can exist alone, but they often occur together. When at least three of these metabolic risk factors coexist, you will be approximately twice as likely to develop heart disease, and five times as likely to develop diabetes, as someone who does not have metabolic syndrome.
Even one risk factor raises your risk for heart disease, so it’s in your best interest to control every risk factor you can.
Each of These Risk Factors Can Be Reduced Or Eliminated
While there are other risk factors for heart disease, each of the ones listed above can be significantly reduced, or even eliminated, by changes in your diet and lifestyle. Because of the rise of obesity in children and adults in North America, metabolic syndrome is becoming more common. Approximately 32% of the population in the US has metabolic syndrome, and prevalence increases with age. About 40% over the age of 60 are affected. In fact, we may soon see it overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.
The good news is that all of these risk factors are lifestyle related, and we know how to improve outcomes through diet and lifestyle changes. If you know you have at least one component of metabolic syndrome, please take action now to avoid serious disease in the future.
Obesity and Overweight are Significant Factors
Only about 5% of people with normal body weight are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. That number rises to 22% if you are overweight, and as high as 60% if you are obese. Adults with progressive weight gain (five or more pounds per year) increase their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by up to 45%.
What Can I Do?
Metabolic syndrome treatment is specific to individuals, of course, and you should consult with your doctor or make an appointment with me. However, here’s a list of general advice with links to “how to” information to get you started:
- Evaluate your current physical condition
- Become more active – start with taking a walk
- Reduce carb consumption and switch bad carbs to slow-carbs
- Eat more vegetables and fruits
- Choose healthy fats
- Eat less processed food & discover healthy snacks
- Keep your children active
- Learn to read nutrition labels and buy healthy food
- Reduce stress – learn to meditate
- Get help with weight loss
I run an extremely effective weight loss clinic in Hawaii. I would be happy to see you for an introductory personal consultation at no cost if you are in Hawaii and concerned about losing weight and eliminating diet and lifestyle-related metabolic risk factors.