The term metabolic syndrome is actually not just one condition. It is a term relating to a group of different related conditions that have been shown to increase the threat of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. With the high rate of obesity and the typical American diet high in sugar, salt and hydrogenated oils, metabolic syndrome is becoming more of a problem.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are five risk factors that contribute to an increased danger of heart disease or diabetes. If you have any three or more of them, you are considered to have “metabolic syndrome.”
- A Large Waistline. This is the easiest of the five to detect. It’s sometimes called abdominal obesity, because the determining factor is fat in the stomach area (which is more dangerous to your health) as opposed to other areas of the body.
- A Low HDL Cholesterol Level. Even more important than having low “bad” LDL cholesterol is ensuring you have enough “good” HDL cholesterol. A deficiency in this type of cholesterol is bad because it helps to keep the arteries clean of cholesterol buildup.
- A High Triglyceride Level. This kind of fat found in the blood must be kept at the proper level because having high triglycerides raises your risk of heart disease.
- High Fasting Blood Sugar. Even a blood sugar level that is only mildly high can be an early indication of diabetes. The consumption of sugar and other refined and processed foods encourages spikes in blood sugar, which can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
- High Blood Pressure. When the heart pumps, it puts pressure on the blood which, in turn, puts pressure on your artery walls. Consistently high pressure can not only damage your heart, it can also lead to plaque buildup.
The National Library of Medicine gives these levels as guidelines to determine your risk of metabolic syndrome:
- Waistline—40 inches or more (men), 35 inches or more (women).
- Low HDL Cholesterol—under 40 mg/dL (men), under 50 mg/dL (women).
- High Triglycerides—greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL.
- Fasting Blood Sugar (glucose)—greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL.
- High Blood Pressure—greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg.
The Mayo Clinic makes it clear that, while having only one of these factors doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome, it does mean your risk increases for heart disease, diabetes or even stroke. Making some changes to your diet and lifestyle can help reduce your risk. Be sure to get regular exercise, which can be just taking a 30-minute walk after dinner each evening. If your diet consists primarily of processed foods, include more whole foods in your diet, increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat in place of fried or packaged foods.