In Health

The Confusion of Living with a Metabolic Syndrome

metabolic syndrome

Does it surprise you when someone you know has a heart attack? Or, do you look at that person and think that he had some visible risk factors for heart disease? Certain factors such as being overweight, or obese, increase a person’s risk for a heart attack, but other factors you may not be able to see. These factors lie under the skin and deep within the veins and arteries where cholesterol build-up may be increasing to troublesome levels. At times, health concerns such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes can be the result of genetics, but a cluster of symptoms, known as metabolic syndrome, can predispose you to major health concerns. Left unchecked, these health concerns have a large effect on your quality of life.

The good news is that typically with life changes such as diet and exercise, the symptoms lessen which reduces your risks. Metabolic syndrome does not have to take over or even be a worry. You have the power and the resources to change how this syndrome progresses and lessen its toll on you and your family.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic Syndrome is not a disease in itself. It is a group of symptoms occurring together that can lead to greater health concerns, says the Mayo Clinic.  These symptoms include:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Extra abdominal weight
  • Unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Specific guidelines, according to the American Council on Exercise, ACE,  are:

  • Blood pressure top number equal to or greater than 135- bottom number equal to or greater than 85
  • A fasting blood glucose level equal to or greater than 110 mg/dl
  • A waist measurement larger than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men
  • A HDL cholesterol level less than 40 mg/dl for men or less than 50 mg/dl for women
  • A Triglyceride levels equal to or greater than 150 mg/dl
  • Another indicator is that you are currently taking medications for any of these conditions.

The Metabolic Syndrome Definition can include you if you have three or more of the above health concerns. According to ACE, metabolic syndrome affects approximately 35 percent of the United States adults. You should visit your doctor if you have even one of the above symptoms before your body progresses into two or more due to increasing weight or insulin intolerance that cannot be changed without medication.

To put things in perspective, if you have metabolic syndrome, you are two times more likely to have a heart attack and have increased your risk for diabetes by five times compared to someone without metabolic syndrome symptoms. The symptoms of metabolic syndrome are not easily seen without the assistance of your physician, so regular well check-ups are important in maintaining your health. If your weight continues to increase, seek the advice of your physician to avoid complications from metabolic syndrome.

Who Is At Risk for a Metabolic Syndrome?

The Mayo Clinic has identified certain factors that increase your risk for developing the metabolic syndrome. Although difficult to define metabolic syndrome by specifics, this collecting of health concerns seems to affect:

  • you as you age. You are 40 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome when you reach the age of 60.
  • you if you are Hispanic or Asian.
  • you if you are obese and carry your weight in your stomach- an apple-shaped body.
  • you if you have diabetes, were diabetic during pregnancy or have a family history of diabetes.
  • you if you have had cardiovascular disease.
  • you if you have had polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • you if you have had non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease

Metabolic Syndrome Treatment

Most of your metabolic syndrome concerns are reduced with aggressive changes in your diet and exercise. If you and your doctor have ruled out genetic reasons for your elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, your non-medication options are a change in your eating habits and an increase in your activity level.

The major contributing factors to metabolic syndrome are carrying excess weight, a poor diet and a lack of physical activity.

Daily Exercise with a Metabolic Syndrome

Aerobic exercises, also known as cardiovascular exercises, are an important way to keep your weight within healthy ranges and reduce your risk for developing the metabolic syndrome. ACE recommends a weekly total of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise. This includes cycling, swimming, jogging, walking, skating, cross-country skiing, using an elliptical trainer and group exercise classes.

Aim to exercise continuously with rhythmic movements for at least 30 minutes a day on five days of the week. This is the minimum amount of exercise required. If 30 minutes at a time is a struggle, aim to perform 10 minutes of exercise three times a day until your endurance improves. As your fitness develops, gradually increase your total workout time between 45 and 60 minutes a day.

Aerobic exercise burns calories and helps reduce your weight or maintain your healthy weight. If you are struggling to keep your commitment, schedule exercise into your day just as you would any other appointment. Keep the appointment with yourself the same way you would any other meeting. You can also ask for support from a workout partner, or ask a friend or family member to check in with you every day. Confirming with someone that you have performed your workout keeps you accountable and this commitment will reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome.

Once you are comfortable with your aerobic exercise, add two or three days of strength training exercises into your weekly routine. You can perform calisthenic exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats and lunges or use free weights for arm curls, shoulder presses and bench presses.

Metabolic Syndrome Diet

Eating a healthy diet is the other component to reducing your risk for metabolic syndrome. Speak with your doctor regarding a healthy diet for you especially if you have allergies or other nutritional concerns. Otherwise, select an eating plan such as MyPlate,  which was designed in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture to simplify what should be on your plate. A Spanish version MiPlato is also available.

MyPlate is a picture of a place setting and it divides the five food groups into sections on the plate. It reminds to focus on your fruits and vary your vegetables- they can be raw, cooked, fresh or frozen. Your grain selections should include more than half of whole grains such as oatmeal and brown rice. Your protein intake should come from lean meats such as chicken and turkey. For dairy, include low-fat and fat-free milks, cheeses and yogurts.

Speak with your doctor about the number of calories your body needs each day. Your body needs calories to perform its basic functions of digestion, breathing and cellular growth, so you do not want to limit your intake beyond your basic needs.

The DASH Diet

The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Since increased blood pressure is a contributing factor for metabolic syndrome, the DASH diet provides helpful tips to reduce your blood pressure. Not only does the diet reduce sodium intake, it changes your eating focus to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy.

Although these eating changes may not be easy, they are easier than trying to recover from heart attack or stroke complications. Your changes can be gradual so you adjust to making better food choices. The more you eat healthy, the more you find you’re making better choices too. It’s as if your body craves the nutritional value from the fruits, veggies and lean meats.


Metabolic syndrome can be reversed. Even if your symptoms are caused by genetic factors, your doctor can prescribe medications to control your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Combine these with your new physical activities and healthy eating choices and your metabolic syndrome symptoms begin to disappear.

You do not have to let the syndrome take over and lead to greater health complications such as heart disease or stroke. You can make the daily changes necessary to lessen your risk and provide you with a lengthy, quality life.

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