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Addressing and Preventing Metabolic Syndrome

"The only way to prevent Metabolic Syndrome is to address it... with sensible lifestyle changes."

We hear about metabolic syndrome all the time, a serious condition that affects of 25% of us. In today's video with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, you'll learn exactly what this correctable health condition is, and why it's so common today. You'll also learn great tips to address to metabolic syndrome, and how to prevent it in the future.

Video Highlights

  • 02:10: What is Metabolic Syndrome
  • 04:16: Underlying Causes of Metabolic Syndrome
  • 04:35: Indicators of Metabolic Syndrome
  • 06:45: Two greatest risk factors
  • 07:29: Apple-shaped body
  • 14:16: Insulin resistance
  • 14:56: Other risk factors
  • 16:05: Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
  • 17:35: Complications resulting from Metabolic Syndrome
  • 19:00: Committing to a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent Metabolic Syndrome
  • 19:05: Healthy Lifestyle Commitments
  • 25:00: Two keys to reversing Metabolic Syndrome
  • 28:34: A fun way to get started
  • 34:02: A final note on diet and exercise
  • 35:21: New findings on Vitamin C and E
  • 38:00: Wrapping it up

What Metabolic Syndrome Is

Metabolic Syndrome is a term doctors have established that describes not just one disease or health issue, but a whole cluster of health conditions that occur together, and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

These conditions include:

If you have three or more of these conditions, you may have metabolic syndrome. This also means you have a greater risk of developing a number of serious and even life-threatening diseases. Left untreated, as you develop more of these conditions, your risk of complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, continues to rise.

The number of people with metabolic syndrome has skyrocketed over the last few years. It's estimated that over 80 million people are currently living with this condition. So let's take a closer look at symptoms, associated risk factors, and things you can do to prevent getting metabolic syndrome.

Underlying Causes of Metabolic Syndrome

  • Obesity or excess weight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Genetic factors
  • Aging

Metabolic Syndrome occurs when a person has three or more of the following indicators:

  • Abdominal obesity. This is generally a waist circumference of greater than 40 inches for men, or 35 inches for women. 
  • Triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or greater
  • HDL Cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men, or less than 50 mg/dL in women
  • Systolic blood pressure of 130 mg Hg or greater
  • Diastolic blood pressure of 85 mg Hg or greater
  • Fasting glucose levels of 100 mg/dL or greater

Major Risk Factors

Most of the risk factors associated with Metabolic Syndrome are related to obesity. The two most important risk factors are excess fat around the midsection and upper parts of the body, better known as the apple shape — If you have a genetic predisposition to an apple-shaped upper body, this may be a risk factor. The second factor is insulin resistance, which makes it difficult for the body to use sugar for energy.

Apple-Shaped Body

There's nothing wrong with this body shape (or any other body shape). It can be in balance, or out of balance. It just means that when it's out of balance, there are recognizable trends in how that imbalance manifests. In the case of people with apple-shaped bodies, excess weight tends to accumulate around the hips and abdomen. The human body tends to come in four shapes: apple, inverted triangle, pear, and rectangle. People with pear-shaped bodies tend to accumulate weight more around the lower body. The inverted triangle shape is more of an athletic build, common with swimmers and gymnasts, featuring an upper body and shoulder area that tends to be larger than the midsection. People with rectangle bodies tend to have weight that's more evenly distributed throughout the body. 

If you are wide on the top, but small on the bottom, you have more of an apple-shaped body and are more susceptible to developing metabolic syndrome than other body types. People with apple-shaped bodies are more likely to develop fatty deposits around their hips and abdomens, and are at more risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, all conditions closely related to metabolic syndrome.

The apple shape is more likely to develop with age, and men are more likely to be apple-shaped then women are. However for both men and women, this body shape indicates lifestyle imbalances, such as high levels of stress, poor diet, and very little physical activity. In men particularly, excessive consumption of alcohol has been linked to the development of excess weight around the midsection, which is sometimes colloquially called "beer belly". 

You can determine your body shape by using your waist/hip ratio (WHR). To calculate this, just measure the circumference of the leanest part of your waist, and the smallest part of your hips, and divide the waist measurement by the hips measurement. If you are apple shaped, your WHR will be above 0.8 for women, and above 0.9 for men. if you are pear-bodied, your WHR will be below 0.8 for women, and below 0.9 for men. Again, people who have metabolic syndrome are more likely to have apple-shaped bodies.

For years, doctors have recognized the correlation between excess fat in the abdominal area, and increased health risks. It can actually be very dangerous to have excess belly fat. As we discussed when talking about triglycerides, fat, especially in the abdominal area, constantly dissolves into your bloodstream. All the toxins live in the fat, and as the fat dissolves, the toxins are released into your bloodstream. The surplus of fat in the bloodstream can lead to elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is also a significant risk factor associated with metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance occurs when excess glucose in the blood reduces the ability of the cells in the body to absorb and use blood sugar for energy. This increases the risk of developing pre-diabetes, and a host of other serious health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and eventually type 2 diabetes.

Other Risk Factors

Other factors that could increase your risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome include:

  • Age
  • Family history of Metabolic Syndrome
  • Not getting enough exercise

Since Metabolic Syndrome is a combination of a number of health conditions, there are usually no immediate physical symptoms directly associated with the condition. Instead, the symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome develop and become progressively worse over time. 

One obvious, visible sign is a large waist. Also, if your blood sugar is really high, you might notice signs and symptoms of diabetes such as insatiable thirst, increased urination, fatigue, and blurred vision.

Having metabolic syndrome is nothing to take lightly. As a matter of fact, the longer the symptoms of the metabolic syndrome go untreated, the greater the risk of experiencing serious, chronic, and in some cases even life-threatening complications. So if you are unsure if you have metabolic syndrome, see your doctor or healthcare provider. He or she will be able to make the diagnosis by providing the necessary tests, including blood pressure, lipid profile (triglycerides and HDL cholesterol) and blood glucose.

The complications resulting from Metabolic Syndrome

If diabetes does develop as a result of Metabolic Syndrome, you may be at risk for additional serious complications including:

  • Eye damage
  • Nerve Damage (Neuropathy)
  • Kidney Disease
  • Heart Failure
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Depression
  • Large Mood Swings
  • Limb Amputation

A commitment to a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to treat and prevent the conditions that cause metabolic syndrome. To start practicing this is not hard. Start by committing to the following things:

Healthy Lifestyle Commitments

  • Daily Body Movement. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity, most days of the week. A 30-minute walk, run, yoga session, or bike ride... whatever you can do. 30 minutes is the minimum. If you can do more, do more!
  • Eating the right foods. Commit to eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains.
  • Limit or Remove Saturated Fat and salt. Saturated fats are the ones that solidify at room temperature, or stick to the plate when you try to wash it. This includes animal fats and fats in processed meats. Also limit or eliminate foods that contain too much salt, such as processed and fast foods.
  • Maintaining a Healthy Weight. Everyone's weight and everyone's goals will be different. Your goal needs to be achieving and maintaining the weight that is best for you.
  • Quit Smoking

Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome

Since each of the symptoms associated with Metabolic Syndrome are individually associated with inflammation, you can only imagine that they conspire to fuel chronic and intense inflammation throughout the body which wreaks havoc, resulting in aches, pains, brain fog, and more. If metabolic syndrome progresses, the degree of inflammation is going to continue to intensify. So you need to get the individual contributors to metabolic syndrome under control to reduce the inflammation, and you need to get inflammation under control in order to treat the contributors to metabolic syndrome. It's a cycle! 

As part of this effort, it's essential that you remember the importance of putting only good, clean, natural, anti-inflammatory foods and supplements into your body. It's vital to the process!

Another way to prevent metabolic syndrome is to address it in the same way you would treat it. Metabolic syndrome is treated by tackling its individual risk factors. As you address each one, insulin resistance will drop, and along with it your risk for heart attack, stroke, and diabetes will also drop. 

Sometimes, you do need medications to treat some of the various symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome, but it's important to use as many natural preventive measures as possible. 

The Two Key Factors

The absolute key to reversing and preventing metabolic syndrome is two factors: weight loss, and exercise. They both work together to lower your blood pressure, reduce triglyceride levels, reduce LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, and improve insulin resistance. Always check with your healthcare provider before you start a new exercise program, of course, especially if exercise and body movement is new to you. If you've been away from exercise for a while, it's okay. Start slow, and increase the duration and intensity appropriately over time. Most likely it will take longer than you think, but you will get stronger and acquire endurance over time. 

The American Heart Association recommends that you gradually increase intensity and duration of exercise and work toward your goals most days of the week for 30-60 minutes. But if you don't exercise at all right now, just walking 10 - 15 minutes per day is an awesome start. Then add simple, low-impact stretching and strength training as you progress. 

A Fun Way to Get Started

Get a deck of cards, shuffle it, and use it to challenge yourself! Whatever card you pick will tell you how many exercises to do (face cards = 10). As an example workout, pick a few exercises that target different parts of the body, such as dips, abdominal exercises (any variation including sit-ups, leg raises, crunches), planks, pushups, squats, etc. 

Draw a card. If you drew a 3 of clubs, and your first exercise is pushups, do 3 pushups. If your next card is a 10 of diamonds, do 10 sit-ups (or whatever your second exercise is). Draw another card, and do the next exercise. It's that easy! Repeat this for 20 - 30 minutes. 

You can play this game with your family, friends, or partner. It's a great way to make daily body movement fun and change things up. Exercising doesn't have to be a chore!

Once you get your body moving, and start eating right by following the anti-inflammatory diet, you'll find yourself feeling better. 

Schedule regular checkups with your doctor, so you can get a good idea where all your numbers are at and whether they're improving. If you find that triglyceride levels, cholesterol, inflammation, blood sugar levels, and the rest are not improving, talk to your doctor about what further changes need to be made. 

What the Research Shows

We cannot stress the importance of diet and exercise in treating and preventing metabolic syndrome. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed how well lifestyle changes could prevent metabolic syndrome.

Research looked at more than more than 3,200 people who already had symptoms of metabolic syndrome. One group was instructed to exercise 2.5 hours per week and eat a low calorie, low fat diet. After three years, the people in this group were 41% less likely to have Metabolic Syndrome than those who did not exercise or change their diet at all.

New findings from the Oregon State University suggest increasing your intake of vitamin C, which you can easily do just through diet, is an effective way to address various health problems related to metabolic syndrome. The findings of this study suggest that the type of eating and lifestyle choices that lead to metabolic syndrome can also prompt imbalances in the gut microbiome, which impair gut function, contributing to toxins in the bloodstream. This results in vitamin C depletion, which then impairs the trafficking of vitamin E and increases the body's susceptibility to inflammation and cell damage resulting from free radicals. 

To put it simply, too much unhealthy fat in your diet results in serious injury to your gut, often resulting in Leaky Gut Syndrome, and harmful bacteria and toxins being released into circulation in your body where they are attacked and neutralized by your immune system. As a result, the white blood cells appear to neutralize and remove vitamin C from your body, and that results in a process that increases chronic inflammation in your body. This is really groundbreaking research. But in the end, here's what it means.

When combatting metabolic syndrome, make sure you increase your intake of powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant supplements, and vitamins like vitamin C and E. Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, mangoes, and pineapple. High quality sources of vitamin E include almonds, hazelnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and sunflower seeds. 

Wrapping it up

Metabolic syndrome isn't just one disease, but a combination of a number of health conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Having an apple-shaped body, where weight tends to accumulate around the stomach and hips, and also having insulin resistance, are the most important indicators of metabolic syndrome. The only way to prevent metabolic syndrome is to address it the same way you would treat it. You need to make sensible lifestyle changes including: getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains, limiting the saturated fat and salt intake in your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. 

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