3 Steps to Help Combat Metabolic Syndrome

Reviewed by Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN
3 Steps to Help Combat Metabolic Syndrome

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Metabolic syndrome is a complex metabolic disorder that occurs when a person has a combination of three or more of the following risk factors at the same time: high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and high triglycerides. Having more of these conditions heightens the risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

If you have metabolic syndrome or any of its conditions, you can take action. Changes in your lifestyle can help reduce the risk of serious health problems from developing.

The following is a list of metabolic syndrome conditions:

  • A large waistline: Excess fat in the stomach area, specifically, is a risk factor in metabolic syndrome with body fat concentrated around the waist.
  • Increased blood pressure: The current criteria for metabolic syndrome includes a systolic (top number) blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or more, or a diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure of 85 mm Hg or more.
  • High blood sugar level: A fasting glucose test result of 100 mg/dL or greater.
  • Altered lipids: Triglyceride levels that measure 150 mg/dL or more and/or a HDL cholesterol level that is less than 40 mg/dL for men or less than 50 mg/dL for women.

A variety of lifestyle habits contribute to developing metabolic syndrome, including physical inactivity, and lacking a healthy diet. This, along with weight gain, can cause a symptom known as "insulin resistance" where the body cannot respond normally to insulin — which is needed in order for the body to use blood sugar. If the body cannot efficiently use insulin, blood sugar levels rise and can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.

Get Physical and Eat Heart-Healthy Foods

There are numerous ways to prevent or control metabolic syndrome. First, adopt a heart-healthy eating plan or dietary pattern. Experts recommend higher intakes of dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy, along with lean sources of protein including seafood and unsaturated fats such as canola or olive oil. Foods with added sugars and sources of saturated fat and trans fats, as well as salt should be limited.

Combine a healthy eating plan with increased physical activity. No matter what level (light, moderate or vigorous), studies show that metabolic syndrome occurs less often in people who engage in some form of physical activity. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity at a moderate-intensity level on most days of the week.

As little as a 7 to 10% weight loss can significantly improve health conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high blood cholesterol.

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