Q: I have been told that I am at risk for developing metabolic syndrome.  What is it and what can I do to avoid it?

A: Metabolic syndrome was identified less than 20 years ago and is used as a medical term to describe a combination of elevated blood sugar, increased blood pressure and excess truncal body fat. On their own diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity can put you at risk for serious health conditions, however, a combination of all three can be particularly dangerous. Having metabolic syndrome puts you at greater risk of suffering from a stroke, heart disease and other conditions affecting blood vessels.

The conditions relating to metabolic syndrome are quite common and linked which has led to an astonishing one in six Americans becoming diagnosed with the syndrome. The syndrome can be inherited from your parents and is more common in African-Americans, Asians, Native Americans and Hispanics. The risks of developing metabolic syndrome steadily increase as you age.

 

Risk Factors

The major risk factors for metabolic syndrome include:

Obesity – mainly in the abdominal region characterized by a waist size larger than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women

Intolerance to glucose or insulin resistance – the body can’t use the blood sugar or insulin properly

Proinflammatory state – the body has high levels of inflammatory markers

Prothrombotic state – there are higher amounts of clotting factors in the blood stream

Higher than normal blood pressure

Unhealthy lifestyle – a high simple carbohydrate diet and not getting enough physical exercise

Hormonal imbalance – it is thought that hormones play a role, for example polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is related to hormonal imbalance and metabolic syndrome

 

Diagnosis

 At present, a combination of three of the following components is indicative of metabolic syndrome:

Large waist circumference – above 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women

High Triglycerides – either 150 mg/dL or higher, or using a cholesterol medicine

Low Good Cholesterol (HDL) – either less than 40 mg/dL for men or less than 50mg/dL for women, or using a cholesterol medicine

High blood pressure – either having blood pressure greater than 135/85 mm Hg, or using a high blood pressure medicine

Blood sugar (High Fasting Glucose Level) – 100 mg/dL or greater

 If you suffer from a combination of any three of the above components, you may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

 

Prevention

It is possible to prevent the symptoms of metabolic syndrome by making some effective lifestyle and diet changes such as:

Losing weight and getting active – exercise regularly and keep your weight below obesity levels

Eating healthier – overhaul your diet and eliminate unhealthy foods, eat more fruit and good fat and natural farm raised produce. Doing this can keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels under control

Quit smoking

Cut down on alcohol consumption

By making practical change to your lifestyle you can prevent the symptoms of metabolic syndrome and remain fit and healthy.