Metabolic Syndrome – Are You at Risk?

metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a term that was first used in the 1950s, but during the late 1970s it became much more common.  Metabolic syndrome is also known as metabolic syndrome X, syndrome X and insulin resistance syndrome.  It seems to be one of the biggest medical concerns of our time.  But what exactly is metabolic syndrome? What causes it?  Who is at risk?  What can be done to prevent it or reverse it?

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

It is the name given to a specific group of medical conditions (risk factors) that together form a high risk for major health issues such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart failure, and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome has also been linked to other conditions such as inflammation, fatty liver, kidney disease, poor blood supply to the legs and low energy.

For a person to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome they must have 3 (or more) out of 5 specific medical conditions. If a person has one of them, it is quite possible that they have some of the others as well, but are unaware it. The more of these five conditions a person has, the higher their risk for major health issues.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the five medical conditions are:

  1. Belly fat, or abdominal obesity: a waist measurement of 40 inches or greater for men; waist measurement of 35 inches or greater for women.
  2. High blood pressure: systolic pressure of 130 mm Hg or more and diastolic pressure of 85 mm Hg or more.  (systolic is the top number, diastolic is the bottom number)
  3. High triglycerides – a type of fat in the blood: a level of 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) or higher
  4. Low good cholesterol (HDL): less than 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) for men; less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) for women.
  5. High blood sugar: fasting blood glucose test results of 5.6 mmol/L or greater

What causes Metabolic Syndrome?

Several factors or a combination of factors can cause metabolic syndrome, such as:

  • Insulin resistance – when your body is no longer sensitive to the insulin that is produced to take the sugar out of the blood and move it into the cells for energy. When the cells no longer respond to the insulin and stop accepting the blood sugar as energy, the body has to produce more and more insulin to deal with the blood sugar. The resulting effects are higher triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, pre-diabetes and diabetes.  Insulin resistance can also lead to heart disease.
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity or lack of exercise
  • Genetics could also play a part in metabolic syndrome, as well as ethnicity.
  • Dietary lifestyle: poor daily nutritional intake, such as eating refined, nutritionally empty foods that are high in poor quality fat (junk food)
  • Hormones could play a part in causing metabolic syndrome

Who is at risk for Metabolic Syndrome?

  • People who have a family history of obesity and/or diabetes
  • People in certain ethnic groups: Hispanics, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians
  • Age is a factor – risk for metabolic syndrome increases with age.
  • People who have a dietary lifestyle of highly refined foods and too many unhealthy fats.
  • People who live a sedentary lifestyle.

What can be done to prevent it or reverse it?

The good news is that, for the majority of people, it is both preventable and reversible.  Preventing and reversing metabolic syndrome involves exactly the same holistic treatment:  maintaining a healthy lifestyle

  • Eat a healthy diet of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, a moderate amount of good quality fats, and good quality proteins. And drink plenty of clean water.
  • Avoid junk foods, highly processed foods, sweets and high glycemic foods and beverages that can cause problems with blood sugar and insulin level (which can lead to insulin resistance)
  • Get regular, exercise: at least 30 minutes (moderate intensity) per day for 5 to 7 days per week.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.

Are you struggling with overweight, or abnormal cholesterol levels, or high blood pressure? Do you have blood sugar issues? Has your doctor mentioned the word pre-diabetes to you?  Contact me, and let’s talk about healthy lifestyle changes you can make to reverse these health issues!


Informational Resources:

Canadian Diabetes Assoc. 




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