Metabolic syndrome is not a single disease but a term used to describe a collection of health issues that increase the risk factors of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. These health problems include high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, and elevated cholesterol levels. When you’re diagnosed with these conditions together, the chances of developing cardiovascular disease is greater than if only one factor is diagnosed. For instance, elevated blood sugar levels might be a serious condition by itself, but when you’re also diagnosed with high blood pressure, your risks of developing cardiovascular disease become more pronounced.
What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?
Some of the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome include obesity, overweight, physical inactivity, age, and genetics. These group of risk factors happens because your body is incapable of regulating specific proteins and sugars (glucose) and cholesterol (lipids).
Abdominal obesity is having a waistline that exceeds 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men. In other words, those having an “apple-shaped” body have excess fat deposits. Having excess fat around the stomach puts you at a greater risk of having heart disease than fat elsewhere in the body.
2. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension happens when the pressure pushing blood on the walls of the arteries rises and stays high. This could potentially damage your heart and lead to the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Blood pressure above 135/85 is considered high.
3. Low Levels of HDL
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) or ‘good’ cholesterol is important to the body because its responsible for removing cholesterol deposits in the arteries. When the level of HDL is too low, it means cholesterol deposits are not being removed as much as is required.
This increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Likewise, the medication to treat high cholesterol levels is also a risk factor.
4. High Triglycerides
These are types of fats found in the blood. If the level exceeds 150mg/dl, it’s considered high and becomes a risk factor for developing heart disease. Additionally, the medication used to treat high triglycerides is a risk factor.
5. High Fasting Blood Sugar Levels
If your blood sugar level rises beyond 100 mg/dl while fasting, it increases your chances of having heart disease. This is mainly due to insulin resistance where the body fails or is unable to use insulin as required. Having one of the above conditions is problematic enough. Now imagine being diagnosed with two or more conditions. That cluster of health conditions is what’s called metabolic syndrome.
Who’s at Risk for Metabolic Syndrome?
In most cases, metabolic syndrome is hereditary. If your family has a history of type-2 diabetes, hypertension, or insulin resistance, then your risks are high. Other groups who risk developing metabolic syndrome include:
- Women approaching menopause or around menopause.
- Eating too many unhealthy carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, and bread.
- Certain race or ethnic communities like Mexican Americans and African Americans.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) that’s greater than 25.
- Heavy drinking for a long time.
- Acute stress.
- Diet that’s high in fat.
Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Generally, metabolic syndrome has no symptoms. If you have obesity, large waistline, diabetes, or any of the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, you should visit your doctor for an evaluation.
Prevention and Treatment of Metabolic Syndrome Opt for a Plant-Based Diet
Nutritionists encourage that you eat plenty of plant-diets, specifically the Mediterranean diet which comprises a lot of vegetables, fruits, seafood, legumes, whole grains and less of meat, sugar, sweets, and cheese. This lowers the risks for metabolic syndrome by keeping your heart healthy.
Avoid Certain Drinks
Avoid any drink that could potentially raise your blood sugar and triglyceride levels. These include fruit juice, soda, cocktails, alcohol, and any sugary beverages. Tea, water, coffee, and low-fat milk are better options. Water is always healthy to prevent dehydration and keep your body functioning properly.
Having a large waist circumference puts you at a higher risk for metabolic syndrome. According to experts, where you wear fat is more important than your overall weight. Carrying fat around the hips or butt is less risky than carrying fat around your stomach or middle area. Losing weight, regardless of how little you lose, significantly reduces the risk for metabolic syndrome. Engage in different forms of physical exercises and combine this with a balanced diet. Apart from feeling great about yourself, exercise will help you shed off the excess fat and might even take medication off your list.
Lifestyle Avoid sitting for a long period at work, watching TV, or using your computer. You’re encouraged to walk every few hours, use your computer while standing, and walk to work if it’s not that far. A study associates sedentary activities with diabetes, suggesting that every hour you sit watching TV raises your risk for diabetes by 3.4 percent.
If lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising or quitting smoking don’t give the desired results, there are certain medications you can use. Since an individual’s condition is unique, you need to speak to your doctor to get a diagnosis and recommendations for the correct treatment. If you have metabolic syndrome, all is not lost. The good news is that, if managed early, it’s possible to reverse the condition and live a healthier life.
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