Metabolic Syndrome is Increasingly Common. Here Are the Warning Signs (and 5 Tips to Avoid It)

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Jeffreyw

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Jeffreyw

In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (May 19, 2015), researchers found that more than one-third of U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers also found the rate of metabolic syndrome increases dramatically with age – almost half of people 60 or older in the United States have metabolic syndrome, the study found.

This is suboptimal.

We’re in the business of helping people live longer, so let’s take a look into how metabolic syndrome occurs and what you can do to move yourself away from the “at risk” category.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

As detailed by The Mayo Clinic, metabolic syndrome is actually a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The conditions include:

Increased blood pressure

Biomarker to watch:  Your blood pressure is the pressure your blood exerts on blood vessels. High blood pressure can damage these vessels and make your heart have to work harder. Repeated studies show having chronically elevated blood pressure can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, including a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other organ damage. By reducing both systolic–when the heart is contracted–and diastolic–when the heart is relaxed–blood pressure, you can reduce these risks.

Note: When measuring blood pressure, it is important to note that blood varies moment-to-moment and it is tracking the long-term average trend, rather than a single value, that is most valuable.

A high blood sugar level

Biomarkers to watch: Glucose, the formal term for your blood sugar levels.  Also HbA1c levels give a good picture of your blood sugar levels over the past three months. This is because it measures the sugars that have stuck on your red blood cells, which on average survive in the body for 8-12 weeks before they are replaced. Monitoring your insulin level is also key – insulin is a storage hormone for blood sugar and fat, where resistance to insulin is precursor to diabetes.

Excess body fat around the waist

You can find normal and abnormal ranges and instructions on how to properly measure your waist here.

Abnormal cholesterol levels

Biomarkers to watch: Over the past two decades, science has unraveled the complexity of cholesterol, discovering:

  • There is good cholesterol (HDL)
  • There is bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • There are further indicators, such as ApoB, which can alert to cardiovascular risk even if lipid panels look normal
  • That lipid particle counts, sizes, and patterns are also important for assessing cardiovascular risk because many LDL particles that are small and dense are more damaging than lesser counts of large, less dense particles, even though those respective patterns may result in the same total amount of lipid. Therefore, those with patterns of higher counts of smaller particles have a more concerning lipoprotein profile than those with less particles with greater size.

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

The two largest contributors to metabolic syndrome conditions are obesity and inactivity.

The two most important risk factors are extra weight around the middle and upper parts of the body, and insulin resistance. Various lifestyle changes can reduce these risks. Here are a few:

1. Incorporate physical activity

Finding ways to stay active is important – sitting or lying down for prolonged periods slows the metabolism and decreases the effectiveness of insulin. For help sticking to your exercise goals, check out this blog post. Already incorporating movement into your routine? Don’t forget to make the most of your workout time!

2. Limit simple carbs

Read about simple carbs here, as well as our 6 Important Truths About Carbs to learn about how to eat smarter.

3. Be mindful of your sugar

Sugar is hiding in many processed foods – learn more about where it’s commonly found (that you wouldn’t expect). Skipping sugar-laden beverages are a small change you can make to kick off big change. If you need help replacing your sugary drinks, try our 7 tips that can help you drink more water.

4. Remove artificial ingredients

Artificial sugars can be found in just about any grocery store shelf item, from chewing gum and cookies to sports drinks and soda. Typically the products are marked as “sugar-free,” or “diet.” While reducing calories can result in weight loss, popular weight loss programs and products that rely on calorie counting miss the point of trying to improve overall health. The body is an intricately complex and responsive to even the smallest changes – read up on how artificial sweeteners and gut health are connected, and the consequences of an unhealthy gut.

5. Manage stress

You’ve probably heard cortisol referred to as the “stress hormone.” Your adrenal glands, perched right atop your kidneys, make cortisol in an attempt to help your body handle stressful situations. And while a little spike of cortisol is good in response to short-term stressors, it starts to become a problem when the body starts making too much, too often. High cortisol is an overreaction to chronic stress.  If you’re used to spending your days worrying, overworking, or just generally freaking out, your adrenals try to help out by hitting you with frequent doses of fight-or-flight energy. Many of your body’s normal processes can get interrupted by these bursts—they’re placed on the back-burner while you tend to your “dangerous” situation. This can lead to a number of unhealthy issues. Check out 6 Ways People Who Have No Time Can Unwind and Relax.

For help developing these lifestyle changes into sustainable habits, check out our blog post on the 5 steps that can help you build a powerful habit.

How WellnessFX Can Help

The best way to know your risk, including high blood sugar and cholesterol levels is to get a blood test.

Once you know where you are on the risk scale, you’ll know what lifestyle changes you should incorporate. If you re-test after approximately four months, the time it takes for blood cells to regenerate, you’ll know if your changes are working.

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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.