About 35% of adults in the United States have metabolic syndrome, a serious medical condition that raises your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. A person with metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke and 5 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than someone without it!
What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is not a specific disease, but rather a group of risk factors. You have metabolic syndrome if you have 3 or more of the following:
A large waist circumference (over 35 inches for women and over 40 inches for men)
High triglycerides (a fat found in the blood) or you already take a medication to lower your triglycerides (≥150mg/dL)
Low good (HDL) cholesterol (<40mg/dL for men and <50mg/dL for women)
High blood pressure (≥135/≥85) or you already take a medication to lower your blood pressure
Elevated fasting blood sugar (or “prediabetes”) (≥110 mg/dL)
How to lower your risk of metabolic syndrome
Here is the good news. Metabolic syndrome is closely related to lifestyle choices. If you make the commitment to a healthy lifestyle, you have the power to successfully treat your condition or prevent it from happening in the first place. These 10 steps can help you get started:
- Get a checkup. Healthy or not, if you haven’t had one in over a year, it’s time to visit your health care provider. If you have any of the risk factors listed above, it is much easier to treat if caught early.
- Take medical advice seriously and return for all follow-up visits to your health care provider. If you cannot follow your treatment plan, discuss trying a different plan that may be more likely to maintain.
- Embrace lifestyle change. Though genetics and age do play a part, the main cause of metabolic syndrome is an unhealthy lifestyle. If you make positive changes in your eating patterns and physical activity, you can reverse metabolic syndrome.
- Aim for a modest weight loss. Your health can improve in a big way by losing just 5–10% of your current body weight. Start slow with small goals.
- Make a plan. Sure, losing weight is all about eating less and moving more. But how are you going to do it? Begin by setting small, reachable goals related to diet and exercise.
- Educate yourself on what changes need to be made to your diet. The DASH diet, Mediterranean diet, and MyPlate are safe and evidence-based eating plans that can improve your health.
- Keep a food log. This is a very effective tool for weight loss.
- Get moving. You can’t get healthy without getting active. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Walking is a great way to get this in!
- Find an accountability partner. Having a friend or family member who supports your efforts and will check in with you on a regular basis is invaluable.
- Don’t forget the other “biggies”. Though they are not part of metabolic syndrome, smoking and high bad (LDL) cholesterol are still major risk factors for heart disease.