Metabolic syndrome is one of the greatest health threats you will likely have to deal with in your life. At this point it is one of the main causes of death and disease in the United States, as well as many other developed countries.
*As a warning, this is a very serious post. Depending on your health, this may also be the most important post you read. Please take the information here very seriously as it could mean the difference between living a long healthy life or spending countless hours with doctors and in hospitals before dying in your fifties or sixties.
In the US, as of 2013 the ten leading causes of death were:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Influenza and pneumonia*
- Kidney disease
The diseases in bold are often caused by metabolic syndrome, while those starred can also be linked to metabolic syndrome. As for cancer, there are many risks for different types of cancer, but some types are caused by the effects of metabolic syndrome.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a fancy way of saying that you’re at risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other nasty things. It’s a checklist which doctors created to catch when your body is about to start going downhill. Basically it’s like the check engine light flipping on in your car. It says something bad is happening and if you don’t fix it now you’re headed for a complete breakdown.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) there are five risk factors for diagnosing metabolic syndrome. If you have three or more of these then you have it. A diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in trouble yet, but it does mean you’re headed that way and need to fix things NOW.
The five risks listed are:
- A large waistline: Stomach fat puts you at risk for heart disease. Extra stomach fat causes inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation then triggers plaque buildup that causes heart attack, poor circulation, and strokes.
- High triglyceride levels: If you have high triglycerides, or if you’re taking medicine for high triglycerides, you’re at risk.
- Low HDL cholesterol levels: HDL cleans up the cholesterol in the blood that causes plaques to form in your arteries. If your HDL is low or you have to take medicine for low HDL, you’re at risk.
- High Blood Pressure: too high blood pressure weakens and can cause damage to the heart and arteries. This can cause heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, or stroke. If you have high blood pressure or take medicine to treat it you’re at risk.
- High fasting blood sugar: If you have high blood sugar or treat it with medicine then you are at risk for or already have diabetes. Diabetes on it’s own will destroy just about every part of your body if you’re not careful. to use another car analogy, it’s a bit like pouring sand into your car’s oil. It will grind down and destroy everything if it isn’t stopped. I’ve worked with a lot of people with diabetes and it ends up destroying their lives and eventually killing many of them.
Your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke increases with the number of metabolic risk factors you have. The risk of having metabolic syndrome is closely linked to overweight and obesity and a lack of physical activity.
Insulin resistance also may increase your risk for metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body can’t use its insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it’s used for energy. Insulin resistance can lead to high blood sugar levels, and it’s closely linked to overweight and obesity. Genetics (ethnicity and family history) and older age are other factors that may play a role in causing metabolic syndrome.
National Institute of Health Metabolic Syndrome Here
The problem is, that our lifestyles nowadays are as likely as not to guarantee that we will end up with metabolic syndrome if we’re not careful.
Fortunately, for most people, diet and exercise can stop or even reverse metabolic syndrome. If you have some or all of these symptoms it’s important to ask yourself some serious questions.
What sort of life do I want now? In ten years? in twenty years? Do I want to be able to go hiking with my kids or play with my grand kids? Or am I okay with sitting in a wheelchair taking twenty or more pills a day just to stay alive, or perhaps not even being around at all?
The point is, that while some people luck out and continue to live long happy lives while smoking, eating junk food, while never walking more than the distance to or from their car, most people aren’t that fortunate. We have taken medicine to the point where we can keep people alive far longer than ever before. However, the quality of life is something medicine often can’t fix.
If you’ve worn out your body with unhealthy living in your 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, with unhealthy living, by your 50’s or 60’s your body will start to shut down. I’ve worked in hospitals and I’ve seen what poor diets, smoking, and sedentary lifestyle does to the body. But the worst part is that often the people who suffer when they’re older, could have lived much happier lives if they’d made different life choices when they were younger.
What can you do about it?
So then what can you do to prevent metabolic syndrome or, if you already have it, how can you slow down, stop, or even reverse it’s effects? That’s what we’ll go over in my next post HERE