I was asked to give a conference on Metabolic Syndrome and the keys to preventing or reducing its potential health risks. For those who are not familiar with this condition I would like you to take some time and read this post since Metabolic syndrome affects nearly 50 million Americans — almost 1 in 4 American adults.
Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of medical conditions that when occurring simultaneously in one person can increase their risks dramatically of developing Type II Diabetes, stroke and heart disease. So what are these risks?
– Central obesity [Waistline greater that 40″ in men and 35″ in women]
– Having glucose intolerance [Fasting Blood Sugar ≥ 100mg/dL]
– Having arterial hypertension [Blood pressure ≥ 130/85 mmHg]
– Having low LDL or “good” cholesterol [men < 40 mg/dL and women <50 mg/dL]
– Having Triglycerides ≥ 150mg/dL
If you meet 3 of these criteria you have Metabolic Syndrome and should talk about this with your doctor. This condition has a greater prevalence in people over 60 years old, who are overweight or obese, have a sedentary lifestyle and are from a low socioeconomic group. The excess cholesterol coupled with a poor diet leads to cholesterol build up and plaque formation in your arteries. These are known as atheromas, which over time can lead to hardening of the arteries also known as atherosclerosis. This can eventually lead to poor oxygenation and ischemia which translates into having a heart attack or stroke. I’ve told you before that cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death in the EU followed by cancer. Smoking increases both risks greatly.
So what can be done? LIFESTYLE MODIFICATIONS. This is the first step. There is no magic pill that can make all of these health problems go away. Imagine smoking plus having Metabolic Syndrome (which is present in most obese Americans)….It’s a recipe for disaster.
Did you know that smoking decreases your life expectancy by a DECADE when compared to non-smokers? Needless to say kicking this nasty habit is an important step. If cancer or heart disease doesn’t scare you just think about adding years to your life. If you quit when you are in your mid-30s and 40s, you can gain up to 9 years. If you quit between mid-40s and 50s you can gain up to 6 years. And if you quit between the ages of 55-65 you can still gain up to 4 more years.
But enough about smoking cessation. Let’s talk about nutrition and exercise. People with Metabolic Syndrome are recommended to lose 5-7% of their weight or start by cutting 500 to 1000 calories daily. Did you know that you could cut 500 calories by skipping 3 sodas per day? Imagine this- losing weight by eliminating only sodas from your diet. It can be done. I had an 18 yr old patient who weighed 260 lbs and lost 50 lbs in one year by doing this. About being active – start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking your pet everyday…baby steps…there are many little household chores that can be done that burn calories. Look it up! It will amaze you. However these group of individuals should get at least 5 thirty min. sessions of exercise or “activity” per week. Exercise promotes cardiovascular health and helps lower insulin resistance.
On nutrition there are several changes that can be done. You can start small by replacing butter with extra virgin olive oil. Other things you can do include limiting the amount of red meat and incorporating more nuts, fish and beans into your diet as a lean protein source. Replacing white flour with whole grain or whole wheat flour, rice, breads and pastas. For more heart healthy foods check out this amazing slide show below from webmd. It not only provides the food list, but it explains the benefits and it even gives you a couple of cooking tips…
Picture source: http://www.preventiekompas.nl and http://www.slideshare.net/