Could You Have Metabolic Syndrome?

By , SparkPeople Blogger

Since the 1940's a relationship between certain metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease has been recognized. In the 1980's this association began being known as syndrome X or metabolic syndrome.

Last week, a new study revealed that "women who breastfeed may be less likely to develop metabolic syndrome."

What is metabolic syndrome and how do you know if you might have it?

Metabolic syndrome is considered to be a clustering of risk factors in one person resulting in an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This syndrome has become increasingly common in the U.S. with an estimated 47 million affected adults. Insulin resistance is closely associated with metabolic syndrome and so it can also be called insulin resistance syndrome. When an individual with insulin resistance also has hypertension as well as lipid profile abnormalities, they fit into the metabolic syndrome category.

Definitions of metabolic syndrome depend on the group of experts who are doing the defining. The World Health Organization has a slightly different set of defining guidelines compared to the most widely followed guidelines of the 2001 National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel (ATP III) used in the United States. When a person has three or more of the typical risk factors, they meet the metabolic syndrome criteria.

The typical risk criteria include:
  • Central abdominal obesity which results in a waist circumference in woman greater than 35 inches (88 cm) and 40 inches (102 cm) for men.
  • A fasting serum triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or greater.
  • A fasting serum HDL cholesterol of 50 mg/dL or lower in women and 40 mg/dL or lower in men.
  • Blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or greater
  • Fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater

Prevention and treatment recommendations are the same for metabolic syndrome.
  • Exercise - The American Heart Association recommends, when possible and health conditions permit, increasing your exercise routines until you are exercising 30-60 minutes most days of the week. Whether there is a decrease in body weight or not, regular exercise improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. Walking is a great way to get started and also to mix in with other Fun Fitness Ideas to help you stay motivated for activity every day.
  • Eat a Healthy Diet - Research is showing that a Mediterranean style diet enriched with nuts can be a useful eating pattern for those at risk for metabolic syndrome. Try including a 2 tablespoon serving of nuts as part of your protein and healthy fat intake each day. Since insulin resistance is a primary concern in metabolic syndrome, it should also be a primary focus of your healthy eating plan. A controlled carbohydrate eating plan that limits simple carbohydrates in favor of complex carbohydrates that make up 50% of your total calories can be beneficial. Likewise, studies are showing that there is a strong link related to increases in fructose intake and the increases in insulin resistance. That may be a topic for another blog but the take away for today is that controlling your carbohydrates is beneficial.
  • Improve Your Body Composition - If you are overweight, working to lose weight and reach a healthy BMI is important. Unfortunately many times the fat in the mid-section/abdomen is the last to go. Don't get discouraged if you see the scale go down but don't initially see a dramatic change in your girth size. Keep focusing on your exercise, strength training and nutrition plan and trust that as you continue to move closer to a healthy BMI you will also see changes in your body composition that will improve your abdominal girth size as well.
  • Stop Smoking - Make this the day and the reason you finally commit to giving up the habit and quit smoking for good.

The Bottom Line - If you are overweight , carry your extra weight in your midsection, have been told you have unhealthy cholesterol or glucose levels or have problems with your blood pressure – you could have metabolic syndrome. However, whether you have been given that "label" or not really doesn't matter. Metabolic syndrome is not a diagnosis but does serve as a red flag that you need to make your health a priority.

A 2005 study published in the Annuls of Internal Medicine revealed that lifestyle changes were twice as effective as diabetes medicine in those that were as risk for developing metabolic syndrome. If you are currently being treated for hypertension, per-diabetes/diabetes and/or high cholesterol – keep working with your doctor as you achieve a healthier lifestyle. As you make positive changes, chances are you will also need changes to your medical treatment plan. Hopefully those changes lead to a reduction of not only your medications but also your risks of a cardiovascular incident or diabetes complications.

Will today be the day you commit to your health and reducing your risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease by renewing your commitment to a healthier lifestyle? What will you do differently? What will you continue with renewed commitment?