Metabolic syndrome is a condition where the body does not process blood sugar properly. The term ‘metabolic syndrome’ is often used interchangeably with several other terms, including insulin resistance, Syndrome X and pre-diabetes. Regardless of what you call it, identifying and addressing metabolic syndrome is important as it can have huge implications for a person’s long-term health.
Metabolic syndrome is a state in which the body does not process blood sugar properly; when this happens, several changes occur in the body which can dramatically increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and pre-mature death. Therefore, identifying and managing this condition is vital to achieve optimal health.
Criteria for Metabolic Syndrome
A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome can be made if at least three of the following criteria are met:
- Triglycerides > 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) OR if a person is taking medications for elevated triglycerides
- HDL-C < 40 mg/dL (1.03 mmol/L) in men OR <50 mg/dL 91.3 mmol/L) in women OR if a person is taking medications to raise HDL-C
- Waist circumference > 102 cm (>40 inches) in men OR > 88 cm (35 inches) in women
- Blood pressure > 130/85 mm Hg OR if a person is on anti-hypertensive medicaitons
- Fasting glucose > 100 mg/dL OR if a person is taking medications for elevated glucose
People that have metabolic syndrome have five times the incidence of a cardiovascular event (i.e., heart attack or stroke) within the next five years compared to people without metabolic syndrome.
Managing Metabolic Syndrome
Lifestyle modifications must be the first line of therapy employed with those with metabolic syndrome. Simply taking a medication (or supplement) to modify blood sugar will not bring about the long term changes necessary to modify the underlying processes that drive metabolic syndrome. Research has shown that a combination of dietary interventions, increased exercise, stress management and supplementation is the best approach for those with metabolic syndrome including:
- Modified Mediterranean, low glycemic load diet – including lots of fresh, deep colored vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats (i.e. olives/olive oil, avocados, deep sea fatty fish), limited alcohol and grains and almost no sugar and/or refined carbohydrates or processed meats
- Exercise – 150 minutes/week of a combination of resistance training (i.e., weights/strength training) and moderate to high-intensity aerobic training (ideally interval training)
- Stress management – daily stress management, including deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and/or visualization
- Supplementation – to address specific needs
We have found that using the approach above allows us to control and often-times reverse metabolic syndrome in the vast majority of people.