Metabolic syndrome is a collective term for a group of risk factors that can raise your chance of developing heart disease and other health problems like diabetes.
In general, excess weight and lack of activity can lead to metabolic syndrome, but there are five specific factors that can put you at risk for it.
- Having a large waistline (a more than 35-inch circumference for women and more than 40 for men)
- Low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- High triglyceride levels
- High levels of blood sugar
- High blood pressure
The good news is that with dietary changes and exercise you can reverse metabolic syndrome. Since your risk for metabolic syndrome increases with age, it is critical to modify your lifestyle habits as early as possible. Here are the top aspects you should know about metabolic syndrome:
Review Your Family History
Your genetic makeup is part of the risk factors, so if one of your close relatives has had diabetes or heart disease, you could be at elevated risk for metabolic syndrome.
Your Body Shape Matters
Where you “wear” your fat matters: If you look more like an apple than a pear, your risk of developing metabolic syndrome is greater. Carrying weight around your middle is an indication of excess visceral fat, a key risk factor for the development of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain cancers.
Follow A Plant-Based Diet
The most current set of dietary guidelines for Americans encourages a plant-focused Mediterranean diet high in fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and seafood – with less meat, cheese, sugars, and sweets.
Dietary Fiber Lowers Your Risk
Focus on incorporating foods rich in soluble fiber – like oats and beans. Insoluble fibers like whole grains can help elimination while keeping you feeling full, longer. It is recommended to fill at least half your plate with veggies and fruits, and choose whole-grain carbs to make less room on your plate (and in your stomach) for less-beneficial choices.
Be Mindful What You Drink
Fruit juices and sugary soda beverages can spike your blood sugar levels. Alcoholic beverages may cause hypoglycemia and an initial drop in blood sugar, but those numbers will then climb — especially if you’re consuming mixed cocktails. Water is the best beverage for healthy hydration. And it’s good to know that tea, coffee, skim or low-fat milk, and fruits and vegetables provide water without extra calories, too.
The Importance Of Weight Loss
Many people don’t realize that even a modest 5% reduction of their body weight positively impacts blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol/triglycerides. For example, if you weigh 160 lbs but your ideal weight is 120 lbs, even a drop of 8-10 lbs could improve your lab markers. It could even decrease or eliminate your need for prescription medication.
The Importance Of Exercise
Even moderate aerobic exercise can improve cholesterol levels, so exercising regularly, preferably at least 30 minutes/day, five days/week can help ward off metabolic syndrome. Moreover, strength training and intense aerobic exercise may improve your blood glucose sensitivity and reduce elevated insulin levels.
Ditch The Sedentary Lifestyle
Sitting is the new smoking: Sedentary activities such as watching TV, working all day on the computer, sitting at work or sitting while commuting are associated with increased risk for metabolic syndrome.
Testing Your Fasting Insulin Levels
Blood glucose and A1C levels are most commonly tested – but testing your fasting insulin level can predict your risk of developing prediabetes and metabolic syndrome as insulin plays a key role in metabolism.