Are You a Ticking Time Bomb? What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Dangers of Metabolic Syndrome
The most suspenseful part of a movie is watching that timer countdown toward zero to see if that bomb blows up or if explosions are avoided. Are you a time bomb ticking toward Metabolic Syndrome? What are the risks of that? Read on to determine if you are showing signs of Metabolic Syndrome and how to avoid it.
Heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are all in the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. The top 10 causes represent 75% of all deaths. (1) While these diseases are costly for those who suffer from them and often result in death, the great news is that there are many things we can do as individuals to mitigate our risk of becoming future victims of these. The best thing you can do to help yourself or a loved one experiencing the warning signs of these diseases is to educate yourself and be proactive.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of three out of five medical conditions. The five medical conditions, or risk factors, include: hypertension, abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels and above normal blood glucose levels. (2) An understanding of these risk factors, warning signs, and contributors to the conditions can help individuals consider pharmacological or lifestyle treatment approaches. Review the conditions and then read on to find out easy strategies to avoid risks and experience great health!
Metabolic Syndrome: Diagnosis of 3 of the 5 Below Health Conditions
For you to be diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome, you will have a minimum of three of these conditions at the same time.
Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure, is measured by the systolic and diastolic pressure of blood. It is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls while the heart is pumping blood. So much of this force over time will cause plaque to develop in the arteries, disrupting blood flow. For normal blood pressure, readings need to be below 120 mmHg for systolic pressure and 80 mmHg for the diastolic pressure. 1 in 3 Americans over the age of 20 has high blood pressure. (3)
Low Good Cholesterol
Good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) helps to remove bad cholesterol which may contribute to plaque buildup and consequently, the clogging of arteries. You are considered to be at a major risk of heart disease if your levels are lower than 40 mg/dL.
High Level of Triglycerides
Triglycerides are a specific kind of fat which is present in the blood. They are stored in fat cells and are released by hormones for energy between meals. Ideally, the level should be less than 150 milligrams for each per deciliter of blood. Borderline high is 150 to 199 mg/dL, and 200 and above is classified as high. It is a good idea to get your numbers checked if you do not regularly.
Also known as central obesity, is characterized by having a significant amount of abdominal fat. Research through the years has proven a correlation between heart disease and obesity are indeed, strong.
High Fasting Blood Sugar
Many factors impact blood sugar levels. Foods with added sugars and carbohydrates are the most obvious offenders. You should also be aware that elevated levels of cortisol, as a result of stress, also impact glucose and your fasting blood sugar. Fasting blood sugar is tested after fasting for 8 hours and levels are considered normal at or below 100 mg/dL.
Causes and Risks of Metabolic Syndrome
There are two primary culprits of the metabolic syndrome. These could either be years of having an unhealthy diet lacking important nutrients, high in unhealthy fats and sugars, or a sedentary lifestyle. (4) Another culprit, genetic factors, with some people being more prone to having metabolic syndrome more than others. The risks of metabolic syndrome include major diseases of the heart, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes. 22.3 million Americans were diagnosed with Diabetes in 2014, more than double the number of diagnoses in 1999. (5) Johns Hopkins University reported approximately 84 million people in the US suffer from a form of cardiovascular disease, leading to 2,200 deaths a day, or approximately one death every 40 seconds. (6) Also included in that same study, an individual suffers from a stroke in the US approximately every 40 seconds.
Can poor diet really be leading to these alarming numbers for the US? Let’s look at some statistics about the average American’s diet. This information will help start to illustrate why we are seeing these shocking statistics for disease and deaths in the US.
- The average American consumes about 130 pounds of sugar in one year and 3,550 pounds of sugar in an entire lifetime, or about 3 pounds a week. (7)
- The American Heart Association recommends 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for a female and about 9 teaspoons for a male. (8) The average adult consumes 22 grams per day. It is here that I will note there are doctors and dietary programs encouraging eliminating foods with added sugars from your diet completely.
- The annual fast food revenue in the US is $110,000,000,000 (9)
- A 2012 survey revealed approximately 52% of Americans think it is easier to figure out how to do their own taxes than figure out how to eat healthy. (10)
- The US Health Department reports about 75% of the population has an eating pattern low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils. (11)
- Trans fats, also recognized as hydrogenated oils, or rancid oils, have no known health benefits and are known for raising bad cholesterol. It can be found in foods such as pizza, margarine, cakes, packaged foods, crackers, and many others. Read labels!
- The US Food and Drug Administration released a determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) and claim that eliminating these from diets could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year. (12)
Research indicates a sedentary lifestyle, or lacking physical activity, also leads to metabolic syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week for adults in the US. (13) Let’s look at what the Department of Health and Human Services says Americans are actually getting each week:
- <5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
- 1/3 of adults participate in the recommended amount of weekly physical activity.
- Only 28-34% of adults ages 65-74 are physically active. (14)
Lifestyle and Natural Treatments
The moment a patient has been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, the first line of treatment would be a change in lifestyle. This is especially true in cases when these symptoms have been caused by consumption of high-fat, low nutrition foods, as well as a lack of proper exercise and dieting. This would be observed for 3 to 6 months, with medication to be administered if the first line has proved futile. Lifestyle changes would include:
- Reducing/eliminating foods with added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
- Eliminate processed foods. Focus on shopping the outside aisles of the grocery store. These generally contain more natural products that are not pre-packaged.
- Begin cooking with healthy fats like grass-fed butter, avocado oil, coconut oil and macadamia nut oil.
- Replace sodas with water. Treat yourself with beverages containing natural sweeteners.
- Eat Omega-3 foods and fish. Wild-caught, cold-water fish have many health benefits. (15) Grass-fed beef should always be purchased when possible.
- Consume green vegetables! Vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and avocado contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants and much-needed nutrients.
- Fruit is a wonderful treat to be eaten in moderation, remembering that these contain natural sugars.
- Add legumes to your diet. Typically these are loaded with fiber and protein, contribute to balancing blood sugar, contain no cholesterol and contain beneficial fats.
- Use whole grains. These foods are high in fiber and are often included in a healthy metabolic syndrome diet plan. Oatmeal and brown rice are great whole grains to add to your diet. (16)
- Get moving! Add physical activity to your daily routine.
- If you have a large amount of abdominal fat consider High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This has proven effective with weight loss and reducing your waistline. (17)
- Consider supplements to help ensure you are getting all of the nutrients your body and benefitting from natural ingredients available to assist in balancing blood sugar and blood pressure. Cinnamon extract is suggested to reduce glucose levels and induce insulin excretion. (18) The Mayo Clinic suggests making sure you get in minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium. They also recommend supplements like Coenzyme Q10, L-Arginine, and fish oil to help regulate blood pressure. (19)
Pharmaceuticals most often prescribed to treat these conditions are used to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as increase HDL levels, depending on the symptoms of the metabolic syndrome the individual has been diagnosed with. For hypertension, ACE Inhibitors and diuretics may be administered, though it is believed that symptoms would diminish with the observance of a healthier lifestyle.
If implementing some of the above strategies seems an overwhelming challenge or you need extra support please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you! Contact us at 844-789-8446 or schedule a FREE consultation today!
Medically reviewed and written by:
Dr. Jason Olafsson