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The term metabolic syndrome was first used in 1977 by Dr. Hermann Haller to describe the interconnected relationship of obesity, diabetes, high blood fats, and other factors. The term has gotten traction in more recent times, aided largely by the publication of several books on the topic. Also known as syndrome X, metabolic syndrome is characterized by risk factors that greatly increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, or stroke. One key risk factor is increased insulin resistance, in which insulin is less effective for controlling blood sugar. The other risk factor is increased fat around the waist. A so-called “apple physique” is a common indicator of metabolic syndrome. Lack of exercise, poor diet, aging and some genetic factors increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Without question, this disease is a companion to both obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome also involves increased inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a key factor in every chronic and degenerative disorder, from cardiovascular disease to neurodegenerative disorders. Inflammation is a big factor in health and disease. Dietary changes can effectively eradicate inflammation, if diet primarily is composed of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. A diet high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, meats and sugars will promote inflammation, increasing the risk of many types of chronic diseases. Increased or excess blood clotting is also a factor in metabolic syndrome. This can cause grave cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, stroke and thrombosis. In other words, metabolic syndrome is a serious disease with very serious implications.
An estimated 25 percent of the U.S. population has metabolic syndrome. So sadly, this is a common disorder. According to criteria published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, you have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following signs:
-Blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg
-Fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL
-Large waist circumference (length around the waist):
-Men - 40 inches or more
-Women - 35 inches or more
-Low HDL cholesterol:
-Men - under 40 mg/dL
-Women - under 50 mg/dL
-Triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL
The International Diabetes Foundation, The World Health Organization, The European Group for the Study of Insulin Resistance, the U.S. National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel and the American Heart Association have all issued similar criteria for determining whether you have metabolic syndrome.
If you are overweight or have any of the signs of diabetes described previously, it is important to see a physician to determine if you have metabolic syndrome. Your metabolism is the entire process by which your body breaks down food (catabolism) and builds your body from nutrients in food (anabolism). Everything involved with metabolism, from your thyroid gland to your digestive and eliminative organs is involved, and every other part of your body is directly affected by the health or lack of health of your metabolism. If you have metabolic syndrome, then you can think of it as a hand grenade that has been thrown into your body. Unchecked over time, metabolic syndrome will cause your health to decline in all ways. You will lose energy, organs will fail, and you will incur other diseases. You do not want this to happen.
Losing weight and exercising more are key factors in controlling metabolic syndrome. Sound familiar? In the starkest most direct possible terms, I want to outline what is at stake here. Obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome are like a great plague sweeping the world. As more people eat higher calorie foods and exercise less, we can expect rates of these diseases to continue to climb. As this occurs, millions more people will die from cardiovascular disease and other grave health problems. Health costs per person will rise, and entire national economies will be crushed under the incalculably burdensome demands of exploding health care costs.
In cases of metabolic syndrome, lifestyle changes, not drugs, are the prescription for improved health. Eating a largely plant-based diet, walking daily, drinking fresh pure water instead of soda, sitting less, being active more, and increasing these good habits over time, can give you a new lease on life and help to end the cycle of disease that is metabolic syndrome.