Insulin resistance, decreased glucose tolerance, abdominal obesity, low HDL cholesterol, increased triglycerides, and hypertension are all symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Obesity is increasing the incidence of this disease, with one quarter of the Western population thought to be affected.
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What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
You may well have heard a lot about metabolic syndrome, or syndrome X. But what exactly is Metabolic Syndrome? In 1988, a man called Gerald Reaven noted that several risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar are commonly clustered together in overweight individuals.
This clustering he called Syndrome X, and he recognised it as a high risk factor for cardio vascular disease.
The most common symptoms (as defined by the World Health Organisation) of metabolic syndrome include high cortisol levels, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, fatigue, and a “spare tyre” of weight around the middle. Metabolic syndrome often causes a fairly rapid fat gain, especially around the tummy, and left unchecked, predisposes a person to diabetes and heart disease.
In New Zealand, surveys estimate that 32% of Maori (NZ’s indigenous population), 39% of Pacific Island people and 16 to 40+ % of New Zealanders of European descent suffer from the metabolic syndrome. The larger person sitting on a chair is a common sight these days. I was at the airport in Los Angeles a few years ago and was stunned to see how many women and guys were in he overweight to obese category.
The BMI Index A good way to determine whether you have a weight issue, leading to metabolic syndrome is to determine your BMI.The BMI is simply height over weight squared, and all you need is a cloth measuring tape and some scales. To determine the BMI first determine the person’s height in meters, the divide the weight (kg) over height (m2) which would give you the BMI. A BMI of more than 25 means you are overweight; A BMI of more than 30 would mean you are obese. If you are of Asian descent, you have a weight problem if your BMI is above 21. Many studies indicate that actual waist circumference may well be a better predictor of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular risk factor and death from heart disease than body-mass index (BMI) alone. And by using waist circumference along with the level of triglycerides in the blood may predict metabolic syndrome even to a higher degree.
Metabolic Syndrome Criteria
How exactly does your doctor diagnose metabolic syndrome? If you have three or more of the following symptoms, a doctor will likely diagnose you with metabolic syndrome based on the following criteria:
A waistline that is at least 40 inches in circumference for men and at least 35 inches for women (measured across the belly).
A blood pressure reading of 130/85 mm Hg or above, or are currently taking medication for blood pressure
A triglyceride level above 150 mg/dl
A level of glucose (sugar) in the blood measured while the person is fasting that is greater than 100 mg/dl or are taking drugs to lower glucose levels
A high density lipoprotein (HDL) level that is lower than 40 mg/dl for men or lower than 50 mg/dl for women (women)
Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms
Fatigue, sleepiness almost immediately after a high carbohydrate meal. (hypoglycemia)
High blood sugar and cortisol levels (hyperglycaemia)
High cholesterol (dyslipidemia)
More likely to having a stroke and heart disease (pro-thrombotic state)
Persistent albumin (a protein) loss in urine. (microalbuminurea). The microalbumin urine test determines the presence of the albumin protein in the urine. In a properly functioning body, albumin is not normally present in urine because it is retained in the bloodstream by your kidneys.
Inflammation (elevated CRP and/or ESR)
Brain fogginess and the inability to focus
Visceral obesity, fat around the tummy, a spare tyre. Does your stomach precede you? Do you have an apple-shaped body type? and do you have your own personal spare tire? Insulin resistance is now well known to be associated with intra-abdominal fat as opposed to total fat distribution
I call this condition metabolic “sin”drome, and if left unchecked will progress. Metabolic syndrome is again one of those “diseases of modern civilisation” and not a condition that drops into your lap from nowhere, you create it with your own way of living, thinking and eating in particular, often fuelled by refined carbohydrates, soda drinks, white bread, fatty take away, the indulgent way of eating. And further fuelled by inactivity and plenty of screen time.
My concern is that there are many children who will end up developing metabolic syndrome because of today’s sedentary and high-tech lifestyle. When I was a kid we used to walk everywhere, it was a different era without the internet.
Many children today eat too much of the wrong foods and do too little; they get stressed out with those crazy fast paced computer games which help to stimulate cortisol levels. They are living in an increasingly polluted, overcrowded and stressed world, competing for resources.
Whatever happened to playing outside? Sedentary lifestyles create rising cortisol levels which lead to all sorts of internal problems, increasing fat deposition and creating insulin resistance. More than one in four Aussie kids are overweight or obese. America may lead the world with adult obesity, but Australia leads the world in childhood obesity. I presume that the statistics of NZ and Australian children would be similar, and a quick drive around parts of this country (and do doubt the country you live in too) will illustrate what I mean.
Here is the progression, and this is how metabolic syndrome slowly develops as the years roll by. This condition evolves over a period of 7 steps.
Progression of Metabolic Syndrome
Insulin Resistance – Develops in childhood
Cholesterol problems – Between 15 – 35 years of age
High blood pressure – Between 35 – 50 years of age
Impaired Fasting Glucose – Between 40 – 55 years of age
Diabetes – 50 – 55 years of age
Cardiovascular disease – Above 55 years
Cancer – Above 65 years
Metabolic Syndrome And Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a disorder that strongly relates to metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is when the body stops responding to the hormone that regulates blood sugar, insulin. The majority of people who have metabolic syndrome already have insulin resistance. Insulin is what enables glucose to enter the cells of the body and be utilised as energy after the food we eat has been transformed into glucose, a type of sugar. Glucose is created when food is converted into glucose. Glucose, on the other hand, accumulates in the blood of a person who is insulin resistant, which puts them at risk for developing complications like heart disease, eye disease, and diabetes.
Metabolic Syndrome Treatment
The best treatment for metabolic syndrome is usually self-care. Your doctor or naturopath may initially advise you to change your habits, such as eating better and exercising more. Adopting healthy practises may entirely eliminate your risk factors. Let’s get started!
Change your lifestyle. Get moving. Losing weight with exercise is ideal, but don’t give up if the scale doesn’t move. Even if you don’t lose weight, exercise can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin resistance. For the unfit, start gently. Walk more. Get more exercise every day. If you’re walking, plan additional time to enjoy the scenic route. Invest in a pedometer (step counter). Increase your physical activity gradually until you’re doing it most days. But don’t overdo it. A difficult fitness routine may cause you to quit. Find a workout level that suits your personality.
Eat well. Even if you don’t lose weight, a nutritious diet can improve your cholesterol, insulin resistance, and blood pressure. Ask your doctor or certified nutritionist for nutrition guidance. Heart disease and diabetes patients may require particular diets. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, legumes, low-fat dairy, and whole grains has been demonstrated to aid persons with high blood pressure and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Many doctors recommend a Mediterranean or DASH diet. In these menus, beneficial fats (such monounsaturated fat in olive oil) are balanced with carbs and proteins.
Get slimmer. Obvious weight loss is a result of exercise and healthy food. But if you’re overweight or obese, it’s a must. You will find that weight loss is one of the most important objectives to be achieved, and every pound you lose will make a difference.
Quit smoking. Smoking does not increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, but it does increase the risk of blood vessel and heart disease.
Metabolic Syndrome Diet
Eat foods “that grow in the ground, that grow out of the ground, that run around on the ground or food that is taken from the water”, i.e; eat natural whole foods which are prepared in your kitchen. Please follow the nutritional plan as outlined on this page.
Eat foods as natural and fresh as possible, keep carbohydrate-dense foods low, eat low glycemic index foods, concentrate on foods high in omega 3 foods, eat protein at every meal and snack, avoid trans-fatty acids, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (processed foods). Eliminate caffeine and “junk”, this is the big one! Junk in = junk out.
Eat less, eat only when hungry, eat small regular meals, avoid food that stimulate insulin or blood sugar, avoid overeating, meals should emphasise low calorie, low glycemic. Eat foods not easily converted to glucose. Eat foods that do not stimulate cortisol production (caffeine containing, insulin stimulating)
Metabolic Syndrome Can Be Reversed
Many people going through adrenal fatigue experience some form of decreased thyroid function as well. Often when low thyroid is unresponsive to thyroid therapy, adrenal fatigue is a contributing factor. If this is the case, both the adrenals and the thyroid need support for optimal thyroid function.
I’ve found that metabolic syndrome can be reversed with a program of lifestyle changes including a balanced diet, stress management, regular relaxation and effective targeted nutritional adrenal support. There is a tremendous amount we can do to naturally balance the effects of stress on our bodies and compensate for stressful life events and stressful lifestyles. In the many years I’ve spent treating patients, and researching, writing and speaking, I’ve seen that if the physiological and biochemical mechanisms that deal with stress are properly supported, people can withstand quite a bit of stress – yet maintain their health, their ability to function, and their optimism.
Metabolic Syndrome And Weight Loss
Metabolic Syndrome is more common than you think, in fact you probably know somebody right now with this syndrome. Medical doctors tend to treat the individual symptoms, such as high blood pressure, blood sugar disorders and even extreme treatments such as obesity surgery. Instead, the focus should be on early intervention with the right dietary and lifestyle changes. A 2014 study concludes with “a realistic goal for overweight/obese persons is to reduce the body weight by more than 7% to 10% over a period of 6 to 12 months. Weight reduction should be combined with a daily minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity.”
Is Metabolic Syndrome a “genetic” problem? Not really, genes change slowly over a period of many years, hundreds. Metabolic Syndrome is a problem which is getting worse as our affluent Western lifestyle develops more and more. It does not exist in the under developed nations, it is the pinnacle of our affluence.