Metabolic syndrome is comprised of a group of risk factors that increase your chances of developing a variety of health issues down the road. Having just one of these risk factors does not mean that you have metabolic syndrome, but it does increase your chances of developing it later.
While we may admit to a sedentary lifestyle and excess weight around our middle, we are not as likely to be aware of high blood sugar levels, elevated blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, and low HDL levels. These, alongside a handful of other risk factors, are all markers of metabolic syndrome. If you have just three of those, as mentioned earlier, you might already have metabolic syndrome.
1. Know your numbers (lab values)
A1C, blood glucose, and fasting insulin levels are the more common lab tests conducted to establish metabolic syndrome. However, when monitoring your risk for developing metabolic syndrome, it’s important to keep tabs on all your labs. In addition, it’s helpful to have a history of your values and know your baseline.
2. Location, location, location
While many factors can contribute to Metabolic syndrome, it originates primarily from a disproportion of calorie intake and energy expenditure. Or, more simply put, we eat more calories than we burn.
Whether or not you are apple or pear-shaped, being overweight can increase your risk of metabolic syndrome. However, your risk factor significantly increases when you store more fat in your mid-section versus your hips. Consequently, reducing belly fat alone and losing weight not only decreases your chances of getting metabolic syndrome but may also improve cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Now that’s a domino effect!
3. The quality of what we eat and drink matters
Implementing a healthy diet is one of the best decisions you can make to eliminate your risk of metabolic syndrome. But unfortunately, our daily calorie consumption includes just 9 percent fruits and whole grains. In contrast, refined grains, starchy vegetables, and added sugars account for 42 percent of the average American’s daily calories. In addition, despite the known health risks, we continue to eat more processed meat.
We know that diets low in fiber are yet another risk factor for metabolic syndrome and that the traditional Mediterranean diet is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Adopting this type of eating plan may have a beneficial role in preventing metabolic syndrome by keeping your blood sugar balanced.
The Mediterranean diet includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, seafood, whole grains, heart-healthy olive oil high in polyphenols, less dairy, meat, refined carbohydrates, and sugar. And—a little bit of red wine seems to be just fine.
When it comes to hydrating, it’s best to stay clear of sugary drinks such as fruit juice and soda. These beverages can raise triglycerides and blood sugar levels and increase the likelihood of getting metabolic syndrome.
4. Sedentary life
A sedentary lifestyle plays a key role in many people becoming overweight, and being inactive is yet another risk factor that can initiate metabolic syndrome. As little as thirty minutes of exercise per day can reduce your risk. Desk jobs that require long hours of sitting will put you at an even higher risk despite incorporating exercise into your daily routine. That’s why it’s important to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Ideally, spend one hour standing for every one to two hours of sitting.
Genetics can be a determining factor. When defining your risk for metabolic syndrome, you can look to your family history for answers. Close relatives and previous generations who may have had diabetes or heart disease can indicate you may be at risk for metabolic syndrome.
Implementing lifestyle changes can prevent Metabolic Syndrome, and prevention is key to taking your health into your own hands.