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Metabolic Syndrome: What You Need to Know

Most of us understand how vital it is to live a healthy lifestyle. Engaging in regular physical activity, eating a nutritious, balanced diet, avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, and not smoking are relatively common recommendations that we are all familiar with and try to incorporate into our lives. 


Most of us are familiar, at least at a basic level, with  high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.  You may know someone with one of these conditions, or perhaps you have been diagnosed with one of these diseases yourself.  However, you may not yet be familiar with the term metabolic syndrome. It sounds a bit frightening, doesn’t it? But, it should frighten you a bit, and when you understand what it means, it should spur you to make critical changes in your current lifestyle.


Metabolic syndrome is primarily caused by lifestyle, more specifically, a lifestyle that does not include regular activity and healthy eating. Further, our risk of developing metabolic syndrome increases as we age, or if our family history includes members that have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In addition, if you have already been diagnosed with liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, sleep apnea, or if you are of Hispanic descent, your risk of developing metabolic disease is also increased.


Metabolic syndrome arises when five separate but linked  negative health conditions occur at the same time; your doctor may diagnose you with metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of these five risk factors. Unfortunately, you are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke,  and other serious health problems when this happens. In addition, having metabolic syndrome increases your risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes.


These five risk factors include high blood sugar (glucose), low good blood cholesterol (low HDL), high amounts of triglycerides (fats) in the blood, apple-shaped body (your waist is much larger than your hips), and high blood pressure. Your blood pressure is typically considered high if it is over 130/80 mm Hg.  Your doctor will run some simple blood tests and measure your body to determine these risks. 


Other lifestyle habits that you may want to abandon in your search for wellness include smoking, heavy drinking, and excessive stress. Consider the many ways to better manage your stress, including counseling, meditation, focused breathing, and eliminating negative stressors in your life.


You may not notice any  uncomfortable symptoms,  so it’s critical that your doctor assess your health. You may be aware that you have a high amount of fat around your waist, known as abdominal obesity; check in with your health care team if this is the case. 


Your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars will need to be carefully monitored until you bring them into an acceptable range. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help you to achieve this healthier status. Another critical measurement is your BMI, or Body Mass Index; if this measurement is above 25, your disease risk increases.


You can reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome today! Start by increasing your physical activity, so take a walk, go for a swim, or join a yoga class. Next, add whole grains, fish, and more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Next, cut out fast foods and fatty meats, and reduce or eliminate your alcohol intake. Also, try to reduce or eliminate heavily processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates. 


Finally, talk with your doctor and a fitness professional about  improving your body composition by losing fat mass and building your lean mass.  The two primary considerations for you in improving your health, and reducing your risk of metabolic syndrome, are improving your diet and exercise habits, so begin today!

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