Regarded as the official wakeup call used in healthcare, metabolic syndrome is one of the most frequent diagnoses doled out today. Sometimes called Syndrome X, metabolic syndrome describes a collection of risk factors that forecast a great potential for developing a serious, and possibly fatal, disease. Thankfully, Syndrome X’s status as a “wakeup call” means that choosing the right lifestyle adaptations can steer your health back on track – away from the threat of diabetes, stroke or heart disease.
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome refers to a collection of risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, you must have three of the five risk factors listed below to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome:
- High Blood Pressure – Either being on a hypertensive medication or having blood pressure of 135/85 or higher
- Large Waist – Having waist of 35 inches or larger for women, or 40 inches or larger for men
- High Triglycerides – Either being on a cholesterol medication or having triglycerides of 150 mg/dL or more
- Low Good Cholesterol (HDL) – Either being on a cholesterol medication or having HDL less than 40 mg/dL for men, or less than 50 mg/dL for women
- High Blood Sugar – Having a fasting glucose level of 100 mg/dL or higher
Having metabolic syndrome greatly increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease, Type 2 diabetes and having a stroke. Besides these serious health ailments, metabolic syndrome also increases the risk for fatty liver disease, kidney damage, obstructive sleep apnea, polycystic ovaries and dementia.
Syndrome X Facts
The following facts help put the prevalence and significance of metabolic syndrome in perspective:
- According to the American Heart Association, 47 million Americans have metabolic syndrome. However, recent studies indicate that actual number is much higher, closer to 68 million.
- According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 53 percent of the Americans over age 20 have abdominal obesity (a large waist).
- According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 40 percent of Americans over age 20 have hypertension (high blood pressure).
- According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 39 percent of Americans over age 20 have hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
- More than 80 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are obese or overweight. Data from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that two-thirds of American adults with Type 2 diabetes have a body mass index of 27 or greater, which is classified as being overweight.
- According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a person with metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease as someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.
- According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a person with metabolic syndrome is five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.
Heeding the Wakeup Call
It is obvious that the impact of metabolic syndrome is both substantial and rampant. Awareness of this reality is what is needed for the millions of people affected to change their fate. Experts maintain that for most individuals with Syndrome X, making lifestyle adjustments is the key to preventing serious illness in the future. As advised by the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, healthy lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment for metabolic syndrome.
The changes known to produce the most dramatic impact on metabolic syndrome include:
- Losing weight
- Being physically active
- Following a heart healthy diet
- Quitting smoking
Most people intuitively know that the lifestyle adjustments described above are a good idea. However, it often takes a wakeup call – like understanding metabolic syndrome – to put a plan into action. If these strategies are not enough to improve health, a physician will likely prescribe medications to help reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.
Nutraceutical supplementation is another strategy receiving accolades in the fight against Syndrome X. Although the standard lifestyle changes previously listed are essential for improving metabolic health, years of research has unveiled additional strategies for reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Although there are dozens of naturally derived substances that can help maintain a healthful cardiovascular system, the four listed below are especially valuable:
- Omega 3-Fatty Acids – Omega 3-fatty acids are well-known to foster heart health. According to the National Institutes of Health, taking the suggested dosage of fish oils (rich in omega-3s) can assist with healthful triglyceride levels.
- Maitake Mushroom – A prized ingredient in several Western and Asian herbal traditions, the maitake mushroom is a subject in an increasing number of clinical trials. As published in a 2010 edition of the International Journal of Medical Sciences, American researchers found the maitake mushroom to lend a supportive role in healthful blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Green Tea – As published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers confirmed that catechins, the major component of green tea, help people maintain an ideal body weight. This characteristic of green tea is reportedly helpful to those individuals who are working with other lifestyle changes to lose weight.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid – Alpha lipoic acid is one of nature’s most potent antioxidants. Because it protects our body’s cells from damage incurred by free radicals, alpha lipoic acid helps maintain the integrity of our vasculature. Besides supporting blood vessel health via neutralizing free radicals, several studies (such as one published in the September 2012 edition of Cardiovascular & Hematological Agents in Medicinal Chemistry) have demonstrated alpha lipoic acid as valuable in assisting healthful blood sugar levels.
By now, most of us have heard that losing excessive weight, exercising regularly, stopping smoking and eating a heart healthy diet is a recipe for health. However, it often takes a wakeup call to realize the importance of these lifestyle adaptations. Finding out you have or could have metabolic syndrome is that event that should spur motivation. For anyone serious about his or her metabolic and cardiovascular health, supplements that foster an ideal weight, healthful blood pressure, blood fats and blood sugar levels may help contribute to a reversal of Syndrome X.