Some of the most common health problems my patients face now are weight control, higher blood pressure, and higher cholesterol. Did you know that the three of these are related? Yes, they are. They belong to a group of metabolic disorders called “metabolic syndrome” and may put you at risk for developing heart and other ailments!
Or insulin resistance, is among the most common metabolic disorders today in adults over age 40. In actuality, recent Center for Disease Control statistics shows people ages 40-70 are between 3-6 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome!
In this column I want to explain why, after age 40, you can end up with this frustrating disorder and ways to avoid it or eliminate it!
How Does Metabolic Syndrome Occur?
In today’s world of processed foods, we’re likely to consume more carbohydrates such as sugar, potatoes, bread, and high fructose corn syrup in relation to our body can efficiently use. In reality, 25 percent of people consume over 180 pounds of sugar annually! Interestingly, 25%, (some say 32 percent ) or over 68,000,000 Americans, have pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes! Allow me to explain the correlation.
Insulin is a hormone that our body secretes to process the food we consume. All food is finally converted into sugar. Some foods, such as vegetables and proteins, are metabolized into glucose slowly and keep blood sugar steady. Sugar and other carbohydrates are metabolized quickly and cause blood sugar to soar quickly then drop lower than it was. This drop in blood glucose causes hunger.
As we get older, most people can’t process sugar/carbohydrates like they did when they were younger. They secrete too much insulin in response to sugar/carbs and, basically, develop a resistance to their own insulin! Less is utilized for energy and much more is saved as belly fat!
Additionally, blood pressure goes up and so does bad, LDL, cholesterol levels. This triad of stomach fat, higher blood pressure, and high cholesterol are the cornerstones of the syndrome.
Health Risks and Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
As I explain to my patients, having this syndrome can place you at risk not just for heart disease; it may also cause other ailments. Non-alcoholic cirrhosis, kidney failure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, colon cancer, sleep apnea, and dementia could be associated with the disorder.
Does being overweight automatically mean that you have metabolic syndrome? Not necessarily. In actuality, it is apparently triggered by overeating, not obesity. These are often present in people who have metabolic syndrome:
- Predominant abdominal obesity – guys waistline greater than 40, women 35.
- Elevated triglycerides – 150 mg/dL or higher.
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol – 40 mg or lower in men, 50 in women.
- High LDL (bad) cholesterol – over 100, but new studies suggest above 70 is insecure.
- Raised blood pressure – 130/85 or higher.
- Insulin resistance – spiking insulin levels after eating sugar/carbohydrates.
A visit to your physician will often confirm if you have metabolic syndrome. They may run certain tests on you enjoy:
- Hemoglobin A1c – steps circulating blood glucose. Levels should be under 7.
- Fasting blood glucose – may show type 1 or 2 diabetes. Levels should be under 110.
How Can I Prevent or Heal Metabolic Syndrome?
As I advise my patients, this syndrome may result in other health difficulties. However, the great news is that it can be treated successfully. Below are the best ways to overcome metabolic syndrome:
- Diet changes: A low-glycemic index diet (see our latest newsletter article on low GI eating, Lose Weight, Feel Great with Slow Carbs!) Stops you from over-secreting insulin and balances blood sugar levels. Avoid/limit starches (white potatoes, white rice, white bread, corn). Add good oils such as coconut and olive oils. Add oatmeal for breakfast. These fiber and oils lower bad and boost good cholesterol levels.
- Lose Weight: Metabolic syndrome develops most commonly where there’s a predominance of stomach fat (see our latest article, Fiber Fights Belly Fat and Disease!) . Lowering your weight by even 10% can undo this disorder.
- Limit Sugar: Sugar, fructose, and high fructose corn syrup are found in many processed foods. Read labels that record sugars added in components. Limit total intake to 25 grams per day.
- Limit Caffeine: Caffeine causes you to secrete insulin and crave sugar.
- Exercise: 30 minutes per day sustained, aerobic exercise daily reduces insulin levels. Resistance training 3x week builds muscle, raises metabolism, and burns off.
- Drink A Glass of Wine: Research suggests that those who never drink alcohol are at greater risk for metabolic syndrome! Polyphenols/resveratrol in red wine helps metabolize fats and sugars and reduces LDL cholesterol. Limit 1-2 glasses every day.
- Cynamon Extract: Recent studies have shown that compounds in cinnamon can improve insulin sensitivity in people with metabolic syndrome. Make certain to use toxin-free water-extracts only. Consult a physician familiar with nutrient medication for its safe use.
As you can see by statistics I’ve listed here, metabolic syndrome is running rampant in america along with type-2 diabetes! If you are concerned you might have this disorder, do see your physician. By making simple dietary and exercise changes, you can help stop or banish metabolic syndrome, and the health risks it poses, safely without medication!