What is Metablic Syndrome and how does it effect our bodies?

Everyone wants to live as many quality years as possible. In order to do so we need to prevent the one disease that will most likely shorten our lives: heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death of men and women in United States and kills more people each year than all cancers combined.

The 4 major risk factors for heart disease are:

-Hypertension (high blood pressure)
-Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)

There are many other secondary risk factors for heart disease, one of which is obesity.

What is metabolic syndrome?
So how does metabolic syndrome come into play? Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions that occur when we get fat and don't exercise.

These are:
-High blood pressure
-Elevated triglycerides
-Low HDL (good cholesterol)
-Elevated fasting glucose
-Abdominal fat

Having any three of these five conditions by definition give you metabolic syndrome. According to the American Heart Association, up to 25% of American adults meet this criteria.

Do you see what's happening here? These five things represent four of the major risk factors for heart disease. Having metabolic syndrome puts you at a much greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

How do we end up this way?

Well, it actually takes some effort on our part for this to happen. Over many years, we essentially eat our way into this. We often start off as fairly lean 20-year-olds and then the things we put in our body from 20 to 40 begin to show up in our 40s.

Typically by overeating sugars, processed carbohydrates (pasta, bread, cereals, crackers), and starchy carbohydrates (white potatoes, white rice, corn, legumes) over many years, we become insulin resistant and fat. This triggers the conditions that make up metabolic syndrome. Some people are genetically susceptible to this as well. In Silicon Valley where we practice, our patients from India are particularly prone to this.

How do I know if I have metabolic syndrome?

There are two ways to determine if you have metabolic syndrome. The first is to get a basic exam and check routine labs. Your annual routine physical will do the trick. The other is to just look at yourself in the mirror. If you are fat and eat a diet high in cruddy (my favorite fancy medical term) carbohydrates, you probably have it but an exam and labs can confirm it.
Reversing metabolic syndrome

Don't worry all is not lost but all is not easy, either. If eating a poor diet and not exercising got you into metabolic syndrome then eating like a champion and getting your body moving can start to undo the damage you have done. Typically a diet consisting of real food high in lean proteins, fibrous vegetables, and healthy fats, and low in sugar and processed and starchy carbohydrates will get the job done. Also lifting weights to increase your lean body mass and doing intense interval training will add the finishing touches.

Dr. Jeffrey Blue, MD


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