Metabolic Syndrome is what you have when you are overweight, and most of your excess weight is around your middle. Along with that apple shape you also have to have any two of these other conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and too little HDL, the good cholesterol.
The American Heart Association estimates that nearly 35% of American adults meet these criteria. This means only about half as many people have Metabolic Syndrome as those who are just overweight. But Metabolic Syndrome is far worse. It doubles your risk for heart disease and stroke and increases your risk for diabetes by five times.
How to tell if you have Metabolic Syndrome?
The quickest way to tell if you have Metabolic Syndrome is to use a cloth tape measure to take an honest reading of your waist measurement. Place the beginning of the tape on top of one hip bone and bring it around your back, over the other hip bone, on top of your navel, then reconnect it at the hip bone. The tape should make a circle around you that is the same distance from the floor all the way around. Do this without pulling too tight or holding your breath. Now compare your reading to the values below to see if you are at risk.
Waist circumference: Women greater than 35 inches, Men greater than 40 inches
Medications: You use prescription drugs to lower cholesterol and to lower blood pressure
If your waist circumference is too large but you aren't on two prescriptions, here are the numbers you need to have to avoid starting on medications and qualifying for Metabolic Syndrome.
Triglycerides: less than 150mg
HDL Cholesterol: over 50mg for women, 40mg for men
Blood Pressure: less than 130/85
Fasting Blood Sugar: less than 100mg
How do you treat Metabolic Syndrome?
There is no single treatment regimen for Metabolic Syndrome. Each risk factor – your weight, waist circumference, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and blood pressure - must each be managed in the best way possible to bring them back into a normal range.
The one common denominator to treating all of the risk factors, other than to quit smoking, is a healthier diet and more physical activity. Even if only a small amount of your excess weight is lost, a better diet and more exercise will improve your other numbers, and that's important.
A study published this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that increasing the fiber content of the diet did more to lower the risk for Metabolic Syndrome than reducing the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Of course, controlling fat intake is important, but if you want to focus on foods you can add to your diet in place of some other foods you're now eating, go for more high fiber whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. They belong in your daily diet for lots of other reasons that are good for your health, anyway, so why not get started?