Metabolic Syndrome isn’t a new condition, although the name is fairly new, having gained more acceptance within the past 10 years or so. It describes a group of health factors that increases the risk of developing chronic conditions, including Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Having three or more of these health factors increases the risk:
- Large waist – Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30. BMI is a ratio of weight to height and provides an estimate of one’s health based on where their BMI falls. A larger BMI typically indicates obesity or overweight. Also, the distribution of fat plays a role – more fat around the middle (apple-shaped) puts more stress on the internal organs, than fat around the sides (pear-shaped).
- High triglycerides – Triglycerides over 150 indicates too much fat in the blood, which can contribute to heart disease and stroke. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood and can be reduced with healthy eating choices and physical activity. Choose foods and beverages low in saturated fat and cholesterol; eat and cook with unsaturated fats like olive, canola, and peanut oils. However, watch your overall fat intake as it can still contributes to weight gain.
- Low HDL – High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the “healthy/good” cholesterol that should be kept over 50. Having a high HDL has been shown to be a protective factor against heart disease as it helps transport “bad” cholesterol out of the body through the liver. This is affected mainly by physical activity.
- High blood pressure – Keeping blood pressure (BP) under 120/80 lowers the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Blood pressure is affected by eating choices and physical activity. Choosing foods and beverages lower in sodium, not adding salt to foods, and cooking with herbs and spices rather than salt are a few ways to lower BP. Being physically active helps lower BP as well.
- High fasting blood sugar – High blood sugar can be an indication of Pre-diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, or Insulin Resistance. Having a fasting blood sugar of 100-125 is an indication of Pre-diabetes; 126+ indicates Type 2 Diabetes. Fortunately, Pre-diabetes is reversible with healthy eating and physical activity, but Type 2 Diabetes is not. Make sure to balance protein and carbs in meals, choose whole grain products, limit sugary foods and beverages, and be physically active.
Physical activity is any activity that gets you moving and keeps you moving for an extended period of time. Include traditional and non-traditional forms, like doing chores, gardening, and dancing. Activity should include some form of cardio to keep your heart rate up; strength training like push-ups, and flexibility training like yoga and stretching.