Metabolic syndrome is a condition with many factors, as well as many names. Whether you know it as Metabolic Disease, Dysmetabolic Syndrome or the mysterious “Syndrome X”, Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of metabolism altering conditions that dramatically increase one’s likelihood of developing diabetes, heart disease or a stroke later in life. Because Metabolic Syndrome is a cumulative condition that develops as one ages, it’s important to keep your overall health in check in order to prevent it from snowballing over time. Let’s delve into what causes Metabolic Syndrome, as well as the healthy lifestyle changes one can make to prevent its onset.
Understanding Metabolic Syndrome
Despite its seemingly sinister nickname “Syndrome X”, Metabolic Syndrome is actually quite common in the United States. Various health surveys have reported that between 25 and 30 percent of Americans suffer from the condition, and as many as 4 in 10 people will be diagnosed between their 60s and 70s. However, common does not mean it is not dangerous. While Metabolic Syndrome itself is not fatal, the health problems one can develop if not treated can be terminal.
According to the American Heart Association, one can be diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome if they meet three or more of the following criteria:
- Waist circumference in the obesity spectrum
- 35 inches or more for women
- 40 inches or more for men
- Fasting blood glucose level of 100 Mg/dL or higher
- Low HDL cholesterol levels
- 50 Mg/dL or lower for women
- 40 Mg/dL or lower for men
- Triglyceride levels of 150 Mg/dL or higher
- Blood pressure higher than 130/80 mmHg
What makes this combination of five factors dangerous enough to qualify as Metabolic Syndrome? Think about it this way. Being obese is a health hazard on its own. Combine that with additional factors such as high blood pressure and low HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels, and you’ll be at a significantly higher risk of developing a potentially fatal condition such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Other side effects of Metabolic Syndrome include sleep apnea, polycystic ovarian syndrome, dementia, and early cognitive decline.
What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?
There are a myriad of reasons one might develop Metabolic Syndrome, though the primary two factors are genetics and lifestyle. Obesity is the leading cause of Metabolic Syndrome, because so many of the contributing factors to the condition can develop from being overweight. Obesity can be due to genetics, or stem from poor diet and a lack of exercise. Having a family history of heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes also significantly increases one’s chances of developing Metabolic Syndrome later in life.
Other factors that could increase your chances of developing Metabolic Syndrome include:
- Being over 60
- Being a postmenopausal woman
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Eating a high carbohydrate diet
How to Prevent Metabolic Syndrome
There’s no denying the severity of the conditions brought on by Metabolic Syndrome. Thankfully, there are several measures one can take to prevent more serious diseases from developing. Consider making the following lifestyle changes to significantly lower your risk levels:
Manage Your Weight
Obesity is the catalyst to many of the conditions that lead to Metabolic Syndrome. For this reason, your first preventative action should be keeping your weight under control. Make it a priority to exercise for at least 30 minutes three to four days per week. Trade in soda for water, swap out snacks for fruits/vegetables, and be especially mindful of your daily salt and sugar intake. Not only will you be shedding some weight, but you will also be providing your organs and your muscles with the opportunity to restore and rebuild to their optimal function.
Eat Heart Healthy Foods
Your heart is without a doubt one of the most pivotal powerhouses in the body. Providing it with the fuel it needs to continue working hard will help prevent the clogged arteries and fatty buildup that cause it to slow down. Consider adding more high fiber foods such as oat bran, berries, apples, pears and beans to help lower your cholesterol. Salmon and avocado are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are “anti-clotting” in nature to keep blood flowing from your heart to the rest of the body. Walnuts are a great source of “good” fats, which raises your “good” HDL cholesterol while lowering your “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Check In Regularly With Your Doctor
While working out and eating well might make you feel stronger and more energized, there’s no real way of knowing the impact your efforts are having on your health without checking in regularly with a functional medicine doctor or healthcare provider. Schedule an initial consultation with your doctor to discuss your current blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels and determine your likelihood of developing Metabolic Syndrome. From there, you and your doctor will develop a preventative plan of action based on your lifestyle, family history and other health conditions that might affect your progress. Maintain open communication and schedule routine visits every few months so your doctor can monitor your heart function and keep your health on track.
Curious about whether you are at risk for developing Metabolic Syndrome? Dr. Lorraine Maita is a recognized and award-winning holistic, functional, and anti-aging physician and author. She transforms people’s lives by getting to the root cause of illness using the best of science and nature. Her approach is personalized, precision medicine where you are treated as the unique individual you are. If you’re ready to start your journey to a healthier, happier life, schedule your visit today!