What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that include high blood pressure, insulin resistance (high blood sugar), excess abdominal (visceral) body fat, elevated triglycerides, and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels (1).
You must have at least three of these above-mentioned conditions to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
A metabolic syndrome diagnosis significantly increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other diseases like type 2 diabetes (2).
A closer look at the conditions that make up metabolic syndrome
The five conditions that are metabolic risk factors for metabolic syndrome are outlined here (2).
High Blood Pressure: blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury)
High Blood Sugar: blood sugar greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL
Abdominal Body Fat: a waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men. Abdominal (visceral) body fat is the type of body fat most strongly tied to metabolic syndrome.
Elevated triglycerides: blood lipids greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL
Low HDL Cholesterol: HDL cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women
What causes metabolic syndrome?
The underlying cause (etiology) of metabolic syndrome is long-term improper nutrition and excess weight, particularly around the waistline, obesity, lack of physical activity, and genetic predisposition (3).
The build-up of excess fat (adipose tissue) leads to dysfunction that then leads to insulin resistance and proinflammatory cytokines, like tumor necrosis factor and resistin, that alter signaling pathways and insulin in the body (3).
“Metabolic syndrome adversely influences several body systems” (3)
As the body becomes insulin resistant it causes damage to the smallest blood vessels which can lead to increased blood pressure, vessel wall inflammation, and over time this and other dysfunction caused by the insulin resistance can lead to conditions like heart disease and kidney dysfunction (3).
Steps to take when your metabolic risk factors indicate metabolic syndrome
First, work with your health care provider to address your health concerns.
Addressing the conditions that lead to metabolic syndrome can help to reduce the risk factors that lead to disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lifestyle plays a major role in the development of certain chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (4).
Lifestyle changes may be necessary and depending on your habits may include cessation of smoking, reducing or eliminating alcohol use, consuming an appropriate healthy diet, getting the right amount and type of exercise each day, and proper sleep.
Cigarette smoking damages many body organs and can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (4). There are government-supported programs to help people stop smoking, like the 1-800-Quit-Now toll-free telephone line that routes callers to their state quitlines for free counseling and help with smoking cessation (4).
Excessive alcohol use is a preventable cause of death in the U.S., said to shorten the lives of those who die from alcohol by an average of 29 years, according to the CDC (4). Avoiding the consumption of alcohol can reduce the risk for chronic conditions associated with the use of alcohol, like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and certain cancers (4).
Consuming a healthy diet, one that emphasizes whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and nuts and seeds in appropriate portion sizes and limits or eliminates processed foods that contain harmful ingredients like trans fats, added sugar, and other food additives can help to supply the nutrients the body needs each day to function and maintain a healthy weight to lower the risk for chronic disease.
Whole foods like beef, pumpkin seeds, and brazil nuts also contain trace minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium respectively, which play essential roles in maintaining metabolic balance (5).
Also, certain plants like red pepper (Capsicum annuum) can reduce the risk of certain diseases related to metabolic syndrome as it is antihypertensive, anti-diabetic, and has demonstrated lipid-lowering and anti-obesity effects (7).
Daily movement and exercise help the body to grow and develop properly, contributes to better sleep at night and helps reduce the risk for many chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, as well as metabolic syndrome (6).
Finally, impaired sleep has been associated with metabolic syndrome as it desynchronizes and worsens metabolic control in the body (8) (9). Improving sleep may be as simple as making some adjustments to the daily routine. For example, avoid stimulants like caffeine for several hours before bedtime. Prepare your sleeping space by keeping the temperature cool (between 60-75 degrees F) and the room dark.
Relaxing activities, like a warm bath or reading a book, can also help to transition the body from wake time to sleep time.
Simple lifestyle shifts like the ones mentioned can all play a part in reducing the risk for or beginning the healing process from a metabolic syndrome diagnosis.
The Metabolic Balance® Program was designed to help individuals naturally achieve and maintain a healthy weight, regulation of blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipids, as it reactivates the body’s ability to produce the hormones necessary for proper body functions using food as a tool (10).
You can go here to learn more about the Metabolic Balance® Program.