Not all experts agree on the definition of Metabolic Syndrome or whether it even exists as a distinct medical condition, but the risk factors that it presents are becoming more prevalent. An estimated 50 million American adults have Metabolic Syndrome (sometimes known as Syndrome X or Insulin Resistance Syndrome) which is a group of health conditions that together puts you at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Metabolic syndrome happens in the body when cells are unable to use insulin and its risk factors are closely linked to overweight and obesity.
The following guidelines were developed by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) with modifications by the American Heart Association. According to these guidelines, you may have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following risk factors and you should consult your physician:
- Elevated waist circumference, greater than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women.
- Elevated level of triglycerides of 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher.
- Low HDL levels, also known as good cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women.
- High blood pressure
- Elevated fasting blood sugar (blood glucose) of 110 mg/dL or higher
To prevent metabolic syndrome:
- Increase your physical activity to 30 to 60 minutes a day. This can help with losing weight, lowering and controlling blood sugar and increasing your high-density lipoprotein levels.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to have half your lunch and dinner plate filled with vegetables.
- Reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol by buying lean meats such as chicken, fish, lean beef and lean pork. Increase beans and legumes as a protein source.
- Reduce your intake of sodium; instead, use herbs, lemon juice, or other flavorings.
- Stop smoking
Whether or not these factors present a distinct syndrome is not as important as addressing these life threatening symptoms. Positive change is possible by tweaking your diet and exercise habits. The good news is that making lifestyle changes now can delay or derail the development of the serious disease implications later.