Know the warning signs of metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is not just one issue, but a group of conditions that occur together, including high blood pressure, high sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and high cholesterol levels, all of which increase one’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The combination of these conditions are cumulative — the more of them you have, the greater your risk. The good news is that making lifestyle changes can delay or prevent these serious health consequences.

Here are the most common symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

First is obesity, with the obvious body fat concentrated around the middle part of the body — the so called “apple shaped body.” Obesity is defined as having more than 35 inches around the waist for women and more than 40 inches around the waist for men.

Second is high blood pressure with the top number (systolic) being more than 130 mm Hg and the lower number (diastolic) being more than 85 mm Hg.

Third, if your fasting blood sugar is more than 100 mg/dL then you are at risk.

Finally, symptoms include cholesterol readings of triglycerides of 150 mg/dL or more or a HDL reading (the good cholesterol) of less than 40 mg/dL for men or for women less than 50 mg/dL for women.

Having one factor of metabolic syndrome puts you at risk. Having more than one, or all four, increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes dramatically.

So, what are the causes of metabolic syndrome? Insulin resistance can cause diabetes or pre-diabetes. People with insulin resistance have trouble getting the glucose from the breakdown of food into their body cells. It stays in the blood and therefore they have difficulty regulating their blood sugar. Their blood sugar tends to be always elevated, and insulin resistance leads to high triglyceride levels and increased blood pressure, as your kidneys work harder to help clean the blood.

Other causes of metabolic syndrome are things that you might have little control over, such as age, race and family history of diabetes. Older people have a higher risk, but even children can show the early warning signs.

Other very important health issues — which you have total control over — are keeping your weight under control, not smoking, eating well and exercising daily.

The Mayo Clinic recommends everyone get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day. They also endorse the Mediterranean diet, which means eating fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains and limiting unhealthy fats, meat, dairy and excess volumes of high-caloric food.

Eat lean to get lean and reduce your risk factors. Fiber rich foods such as beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables help lower insulin levels. Avoid processed and deep fried foods. Get rid of salt on the table and choose white, lean meat rather than red meat.

Smoking cigarettes increases insulin resistance and raises your risk of lung cancer.  You should also check your own blood pressure, get your sugar levels and cholesterol levels checked annually and keep on top of your own health issues.

There is much we can do as individuals to take charge of our own health. So often people think it is the doctor’s job to take care of our health, but it is not. The health care professional is there to help when you are sick or injured, but the day-to-day maintenance of good health is our own responsibility.

It is not difficult, it just takes commitment and it is worth it to live radiantly healthy.

• Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at, 212-1451 or


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