There is nothing more shocking than to be diagnosed with something you have never heard of. I’m sure you're aware of some common ones: diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease. The list goes on.
I recently have been making some life changes and was considering changing clinics. Not because of service, but location. I asked them to send the last couple of doctor's notes and labs because I wanted to look at the data to figure out what metrics matter for my health. Maybe better said, I want to manage the things I can affect, as I make the changes.
As I was reading through the doctor's note, I saw a new diagnosis that I hadn’t seen before – Metabolic Syndrome. At once I could feel my pulse start to race and as I started to break out in a sweat, I did what any tech-savvy person might do, I Googled it.
What is it?
Metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X, is fairly new on the medical scene. When I say that, I mean it has been almost 20 years since it was first identified and considered a potential diagnosis.
The diagnosis points to a group of risk factors. People exhibiting these factors are at a higher risk of having conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. There are a few other conditions, but these are the main three. Apart from the waistline, there are no visible signs or symptoms.
The following are the risk factors that are used to diagnose if someone has metabolic syndrome. You must have at least three of the factors to qualify (not that you want to).
- Large Waist Size – women 35+ | men 40+ - This is the “pot belly” or “beer belly” for men. For women, the terminology is far more refined and referred to as apple shaped. In either case, there is excessive fat around the stomach area. This is a sign that you are at greater risk for heart disease.
- High Blood Pressure (BP) – BP of 135/85 or higher OR on medication to control it.
- High Fasting Blood Sugar – 100 or greater
- High Triglycerides – 150 or greater OR on medication to lower them.
- Low HDL Cholesterol – women less than 50 | men less than 40
Is There Anything I Can Do?
The good news is that there are some things you can do to lower your risk. These won't come as a surprise.
They are lifestyle changes that you can integrate into your daily life. You should consult your personal physician before starting this or any other diet or fitness program.
Exercise – We all know that we should be exercising. Thirty minutes a day will go a long way. It depends on where you are at today.
- Shoot for 150 minutes of exercise per week 80% of the time if you want to maintain your current level of health. If you aren’t there now work your way toward it. If You want to lose weight you will want to work toward 210 minutes. It is better to spread it out instead of trying to just do it all on the weekend.
- If you are doing less than suggested, try increasing until you reach that level.
- Remember that it is best that you do at least 10 minutes of exercise to get the biggest benefit.
Decrease Stress – Manage your stress so it doesn’t manage you. Emotional events that are upsetting, especially anger can serve as a trigger for chest pain or even a heart attack. Consider the following to help manage stress.
- Physical activity.
- Participate in a stress management program.
- Connecting with family, friends, and community support systems like a local church.
Diet – It should come as no surprise that increasing your vegetables and fruits and cutting down on processed foods will start you on the road to eating healthier.
Maintain a healthy weight – Try to reach a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25. If you’re there, great! If you are doing the things above you have already taken steps to reach this goal.
Smoking – If you smoke, quit. Smoking can raise your risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease. It can even affect other associated risk factors.
We covered metabolic syndrome, it’s risks and some actions that can be taken to start moving to a healthier you.
Evaluate your scenario. Are you at risk? If so, what step will you take to start the process?