What is Metabolic Syndrome and why should I care about it?

Have you ever heard of “Metabolic Syndrome“?  If you haven’t, don’t feel bad.  I had no idea what it was until two years ago when I started this incredible journey of rigorous research in the fields of nutrition and medicine.    If you have heard of it, then you must know that it is considered by the medical establishment as the main precursor to many of the diseases that plague modern humans including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer.

Metabolic Syndrome, also known as “insulin resistance” or “Syndrome X” is a set of symptoms or conditions that are considered markers for overall health.  As stated in the Cleveland clinic article that I linked up top, you are considered to have Metabolic Syndrome and are considered “high risk” if you display 3 or more of the following:

  • A waistline of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women (measured across the belly)
  • A blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or are taking blood pressure medications
  • A triglyceride level above 150 mg/dl
  • A fasting blood glucose (sugar) level greater than 100 mg/dl or are taking glucose-lowering medications
  • A high density lipoprotein level (HDL) less than 40 mg/dl (men) or under 50 mg/dl (women)

According to recent data, 20% – 25% of Americans (over 60mm people) have Metabolic Syndrome (and that is just people who have been diagnosed.  Think of how many people have 3 or more of these symptoms and have never been checked for it.)   I don’t know about you, but I know A LOT of people that display 3 or more of these symptoms.  To put this in perspective, 60mm or more (1 in every 5 people you know.  my bet is closer to half of America, but I do not have data to back this up) people in the United States are currently living (knowingly or unknowingly) in a sickly state that promotes premature death from heart attack, stroke, or cancer.  This is a plague, people.  A plague of epic proportions that is largely under reported.  Instead of tackling devastating news such as this, the media would rather throw a scare into the public about the flu.  

OK, so now we know what Metabolic Syndrome is, and we know that it is a very serious indicator of potentially life threatening diseases around the corner.  But what causes it?  At the heart of Metabolic Syndrome is insulin resistance.  There are some factors that are beyond our control that can lead to insulin resistance such as potential genetic predispositions to it.  However, many other factors that are within our control contribute directly to insulin resistance such as dietary habits, specifically high carbohydrate intake, exercise frequency, and chronic stress or anxiety.

Some quick tips to lower your risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome: 

  • Drastically reduce your daily carbohydrate intake.  The more carbs you eat, the higher your blood sugar spikes, and the higher your blood sugar spikes, the greater the insulin response.  All of the latest research points to keeping your blood sugar and insulin response low in order to increase insulin sensitivity.  The easiest way to start doing that is to eliminate sodas or any sugary drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade and fruit juices as well as any and all candy or candy bars.  These are completely empty calories, totally devoid of nutrition and they wreak havoc on your blood sugar and insulin.  If you are feeling brave the next step is to cut out or drastically reduce your intake of processed flours and all grains such as breads, rice, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, croissants, pizza, bagels, etc.
  • Be sure to get adequate sleep each night, as new research shows that lack of sleep causes insulin resistance.
  • Move!  Exercise really helps to regulate insulin levels.
  • Practice stress reduction.  One quick and easy way to do this is to start doing 10-20 minutes of deep breathing exercises each day.  I try to do it once in the morning and once at night before bed.  I use an app on my iPhone called Beathe2Relax and it’s pretty good guided breathing.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly and easily deep breathing can help you relax and destress!

So I’ve outlined what Metabolic Syndrome is and what causes it.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that:

Because Metabolic Syndrome is not a disease in and of itself, but instead a set of symptoms that are a “warning sign” of bad things to come, If you are diagnosed with it you can just look at it as a major wake up call.   There is still time to fix it!

  • Metabolic Syndrome in most cases is completely reversible or controllable and in many cases you don’t need medication to do that.  Some simple lifestyle changes might just do the trick (you should always consult with your physician to come up with the best plan of attack possible for ANY illness or condition).

In my humble opinion the biggest takeaway here is a positive one. Insulin resistance and or Metabolic Syndrome are both signs that we need to shift our thinking. The current viewpoint that Americans have towards health (which has been taught to us by pharmaceutical companies that stand to profit from us thinking this way) is that we have no control over whether or not we get sick so “live your life” and use modern medicine (drugs) to treat your illness.

The real truth is that we have a significant amount of control over our own health and if we take a preventative approach toward illness we can ward off and even reverse many of the diseases that plague modern humans. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, autoimmune disease, inflammation (which leads to all of the above): all largely preventable.

I know so many people who are so quick to run a marathon to raise money to fight cancer or heart disease, and so many people willing to donate to these causes…and that’s terrific! Really, I applaud the selfless nature of it. Our hearts are in the right place.

However, could it be that, while we send money to pharmaceutical companies and laboratories in hopes that they can concoct the perfect drug to cure cancer or heart disease, the answer has been under our collective noses the entire time? Prevention through lifestyle choices is the real cure.  The sooner we own up to this truth, the sooner we can rid ourselves, our loved ones, and the world of evil diseases like heart disease and cancer.

We need to set the example for our children. As Gandhi said “You must BE the change you want to see in the world”.

Click here if you’d like to read more about Metabolic Syndrome.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this in the comments section below.  Do you know of anyone who has Metabolic Syndrome?  Or perhaps they have several of the symptoms but have not been diagnosed?

Thanks for reading!

– Rick

Disclaimer: The entire contents of this blog are based upon the opinions of the author, unless otherwise noted.  The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of the author.

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