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"Metabolic Syndrome" --
the Symptoms, Causes and Solutions

Over 50 million Americans have a cluster of symptoms known as "metabolic syndrome," and even more are at risk of this increasingly common disease. You may have metabolic syndrome, which is also known as Syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, and dysmetabolic syndrome, if you have three or more of the following symptoms:

fried food

A recent study found that eating lots of fried foods and refined grains, or drinking diet soda, significantly increases your risk of metabolic syndrome.

  • High blood pressure

  • High blood sugar levels

  • High levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood

  • Low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) in your blood

  • Too much fat around your waist (specifically a waistline of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women (measured across the belly))

What makes metabolic syndrome so dangerous is that this cluster of symptoms significantly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

While several factors appear to cause metabolic syndrome, the dominant underlying risk factors for this syndrome appear to be abdominal obesity and insulin resistance. The food you eat normally gets broken down into sugar (glucose), which enters your cells for fuel. Insulin is made by your pancreas to help the glucose enter cells.

However, if you are insulin resistant, your cells don't respond to the insulin, and, as a result, your body keeps making more and more of it. The end result is an increased level of both insulin and glucose in your blood. Although in metabolic syndrome the levels may not be high enough to qualify as diabetes, they still interfere with your body's normal functions by:

  • Raising your levels of triglycerides and other blood fats

  • Increasing your blood pressure

  • Increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and more

Is Your Lifestyle Putting You at Risk of Metabolic Syndrome?

Regular exercise

Regular exercise can help to prevent and treat metabolic syndrome.

A new study published in Circulation found that your diet greatly influences your risk of metabolic syndrome. In short, those who ate a "Western dietary pattern" with lots of refined grains, fried food and red meat had an 18 percent increased risk of the disease.

Further, those who drank one can of diet soda a day had a 34 percent higher risk than those who did not.

While the researchers weren't certain whether a chemical in the diet soda, or another behavior of diet soda drinkers, was responsible for the increased risk, it's long been known that metabolic syndrome is influenced by lifestyle choices.

What can you do to prevent and help treat metabolic syndrome?

  • Exercise for 30-60 minutes a day at a moderate intensity level, most days of the week.

  • Eat a healthy diet, which focuses on fruits and vegetables and lean meats. Fiber-rich foods can also help reduce insulin levels.

    In fact, one Harvard Medical School study found that people with high-fiber diets had a much lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

    Eating healthy also means avoiding processed foods, fried foods and excess sweets, and experimenting with healthy herbs and spices.

  • Quit smoking, if you do. Smoking increases insulin resistance and worsens metabolic syndrome.

  • Lose weight if you're overweight. Even losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight reduces insulin levels, blood pressure and your risk of diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • Monitor your health. Check your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels on a regular basis. If they are no longer in the healthy ranges, make additional positive changes to your diet and activity level.

Recommended Reading

The One Real Reason You Are Stressed Out, Overweight, Depressed or Angry

Strong Obesity and Cancer Link Now Absolutely Confirmed


Circulation January 22, 2008

American Heart Association

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