What is Metabolic Syndrome?

You may have heard the name but there is often some confusion about what exactly is metabolic syndrome, in fact,  keyword research shows over 74,000 Google searches for “metabolic syndrome” in just the past 24 hours.  Also called syndrome x, metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of conditions that raise the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.  When an individual has three of the five conditions a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome can be made. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) the prevalence of metabolic syndrome has been on the rise since the early 1990s and by 2012 it’s estimated that more than one-third of US adults met the diagnostic criteria.    

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Metabolic Syndrome diagnosis with any three of the following:

  • High blood pressure ( systolic reading of 135 mm Hg over diastolic 85 mm Hg or greater)
  • Impaired glucose tolerance (fasting blood glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater)
  • High waist circumference (greater than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women)
  • High triglycerides (150 mg/dL or greater)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women)

 

3 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

Metabolic syndrome is treated by addressing the conditions that contribute to the diagnosis. Interventions with diet and lifestyle can often help to reverse the conditions that make up metabolic syndrome.  For example, a weight loss of as little as 3% can lead to improvements in blood lipids and meeting minimum recommendations for daily exercise can help keep blood pressure in check.  If you are looking to reduce your risk, try starting with the three tips below:

 

1. Know Your Numbers

Being an active participant in your healthcare and knowing where you stand can help you better understand your risk. Blood pressure, fasting glucose and blood lipids are tests that should be done each year at your annual check-up visit.  Knowing where you stand now and watching the trends year after year can help you take action sooner if one area starts to creep up.

 

2. Don’t Ignore Your Weight

A prospective study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2000 estimated that the average American gains and then maintains about a pound of weight annually.  This may not seem clinically significant enough to warrant intervention at an annual check-up visit however year after year of gradual gains can become significant and contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome.  Your weight may not fit perfectly within the BMI scale but knowing what’s a healthy range for you and watching your trends is important.

3. Strive For 150

Participating in some form of physical activity is well established in the research to have protective effects against the conditions that contribute to metabolic syndrome including lowering blood pressure, maintaining weight and reducing insulin resistance.  Check in to see how close you are getting to meeting the minimum recommendations of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.  Already there? See if you can reach 300 minutes a week for additional benefits.  For more on the benefits of exercise check out my post on the 2018 Exercise Guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

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