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Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome (METS) is one of the most common diseases in the United States. As a matter of fact, it is the occurrence of three or more—out of a possible five—conditions that are active at the same time. If you’re curious to know more about METS, how and if it impacts you, keep reading.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a batch of conditions that impacts your risk for heart disease. These conditions include: 

  • Large waist circumference: A waistline that measures greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men.
  • High triglyceride level: Triglycerides are simply a type of fat in the blood. A value of 150 mg/dL or higher puts you at risk for METS.  
  • Low HDL cholesterol: HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. This is a good type of cholesterol.  Having a value less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women puts you at risk for METS. 
  • Elevated blood pressure: Anything higher than 120 mg/dL puts you at risk for METS. 
  • Elevated blood sugar when fasting: Consistently elevated blood sugar levels (when you have not eaten) can result in pre-diabetes or diabetes. A value of 100 mg/dL or higher may result in METS.

It is important to note that having one of these conditions does not automatically mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, it could put you at risk for developing it, especially if you have more than one of these conditions.

What Causes Metabolic Syndrome:

Metabolic syndrome can be caused by nature, nurture, or both. For example, age and ethnicity are natural genetic components that can increase the risk of developing METS. There are hundreds of inherited underlying causes of metabolic syndrome. A few are fatty acid oxidation disorders (which impair fat transport in the body), lactic acidosis, and even stroke-like episodes. On the other hand, certain modifiable lifestyle factors such as excess weight and type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of developing METS. Whether METS is genetic or acquired, it can be treated and reversed with lifestyle change or medication. While we don’t know what specifically causes metabolic syndrome, lifestyle factors related to diet and physical inactivity are some of the root causes. 

Signs and symptoms of METS:

The symptoms of METS are not obvious. This is because even if you feel the effects of having a high triglyceride level, a low HDL, or rising blood pressure, you may not be able to automatically identify these issues. More often than not, diagnostic tests have to be completed to get concrete results. There are, however, some signs that can be assessed from the comfort of your home. Measuring your waist circumference and completing blood sugar readings (using a glucometer) can give you understandable information you can apply to your overall health status. If your blood sugar level is high, other signs to look for could include increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue and blurred vision.  

Interventions:

Since METS negatively impacts the heart, management of the condition can include pharmacological and lifestyle modifications. While pharmacological modifications involve the aid of a medical doctor, lifestyle changes can easily be added to your current regimen. One lifestyle modification you can focus on is diet. Nutrient-rich foods can improve blood sugar levels, triglyceride levels, blood pressure levels and your weight. Consuming less calorie-dense foods and more nutrient-dense foods is imperative.

Examples of calorie-dense foods include:

  • Candy
  • Refined grains
  • Snack foods

Nutrient-dense foods include:

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes & beans
  • Fruits & vegetables 

Switching to nutrient-dense foods is a rudimentary diet change that promotes heart health and may positively alter those factors that indicate METS.

Where Do We Go from Here?

METS is a group of conditions that coexist. This can be seen as a positive since the noticeable progression of each condition might give you the chance to make necessary changes as early as possible. While there are certain risk factors we cannot control in METS, there are other risk factors we can control. Lifestyle changes are an important component when it comes to managing METS or the risk of developing METS. 

For starters, incorporating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, while consuming less added sugar and snack foods, is a primary and crucial step to improving your overall health and wellness. Regular activity is also ideal. Last, and certainly not least, seeking professional medical help for what you don’t understand is important. You are bigger and stronger than METS.

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References:

 

Nilsson, Peter M., et al. “The Metabolic Syndrome – What Is It and How Should It Be Managed?” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, vol. 26, no. 2_suppl, Dec. 2019, pp. 33–46, doi:10.1177/2047487319886404.

Rochlani, Yogita, et al. “Metabolic Syndrome: Pathophysiology, Management, and Modulation by Natural Compounds.” Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, SAGE Publications, Aug. 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5933580/#. 

Clinic , Mayo. “Inherited Metabolic Disorders.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 July 2017, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inherited-metabolic-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20352590. 

Clinic , Cleveland. “Metabolic Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, 2021, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10783-metabolic-syndrome.

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