Metabolic Syndrome is extremely common, with the American Heart Association estimating that 47 million Americans have it, the syndrome has only been in medical textbooks since 1998, and is controversial in that some doctors disagree with the idea that Metabolic Syndrome is in fact a distinct condition.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic Syndrome is a constellation of risk factors that puts the patient at a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, peripheral artery disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. These risk factors include:
- High Blood Pressure – over 130/85, or if you are currently on blood pressure medication.
- A large waist size – for men waist size of 40 inches or larger and for women 35 inches or larger. An apple shaped body has higher levels of abdominal fat.
- High triglycerides – 150 mg/dl or higher or currently being on a cholesterol lowering medication.
- Low good cholesterol (HDL) – for men less than 40 mg/dl and for women less than 50 mg/dl, or currently on cholesterol lowering medication.
- High Fasting Glucose levels – 100 mg or higher.
To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome you would have at least 3 of these risk factors, although having even one of these risk factors increases the risk of blood vessel, heart disease and diabetes.
Conditions Associated with Metabolic Syndrome
These risk factors also have a genetic component. Metabolic Syndrome tends to run in families and in the United States is most common in people of Hispanic descent, particularly Hispanic women. Other conditions that may increase your chance of developing Metabolic Syndrome, aside from ethnic origin include:
- Insulin resistance – this is when the body’s cells and organs don’t respond well to insulin and are unable to use glucose from the blood for energy. Over time the pancreas will produce more insulin causing blood sugar levels to rise.
- Obesity – is directly linked to insulin resistance.
- Unhealthy lifestyle which includes a history of heavy drinking, stressful and sedentary lifestyle and eating a high fat diet. Foods that make metabolic syndrome worse include sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, sodium
- Personal or Family history of diabetes. Including women who have had gestational diabetes or have a family member with type 2 diabetes
- Age – metabolic syndrome is more likely to develop as you age
Potential Illnesses linked with Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome increases the likelihood of developing serious long term conditions, without treatment patients with metabolic syndrome may possibly develop:
- Heart disease
- Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver disease
- Sleep problems
- Peripheral artery disease
- Diabetes, the complications of which include eye damage, nerve damage, kidney disease and amputation.
Holistic Treatment Options for Metabolic Syndrome
The proper treatment of metabolic syndrome is vital to reduce the risk of further health problems. The first line of treatment depends on the patient committing to making lifestyle changes including:
- Losing weight – changes in diet should include eating exploring the Mediterranean and DASH diets, using healthy fats while cooking including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Eating a variety of foods including a lot of fruit and vegetables, and choosing whole grains over highly processed white rice and bread. A reduction of 5% – 10% of body weight has tremendous health benefits.
- Exercise – Start slowly and aim to walk 30 minutes a day at least 3 days per week, and gradually increasing from there. Patients should discuss with their health care providers before beginning an exercise program.
- Stop smoking – While this is difficult, it is not impossible, alternative treatments including hypnosis may be helpful to facilitate kicking the habit.
- The use of non-pharmaceutical supplements may be helping in the treatment of metabolic syndrome, however supplements are most effectively used when working with a holistic provider who is educated in their use.
Seeking professional medical assistance along with lifestyle changes is essential when dealing with Metabolic Syndrome and its associated conditions is vital to maintaining long term health.