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Metabolic Syndrome

What is Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome, also called insulin resistance syndrome, dysmetabolic syndrome, or Syndrome X, is a group of factors that increase your risk of developing diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

According to the guidelines, if you have three or more of the below traits (including those you are using medication to control), then you have metabolic syndrome…

  • Decreased HDL (“Good” Cholesterol) Levels – If you have low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), it can be indicative of metabolic syndrome. In women, HDL levels should be greater than 50 milligrams per deciliter. In men, it should be greater than 40 milligrams per deciliter.
  • Elevated Triglycerides – High triglyceride levels, which are 150 milligrams per deciliter, can be an indication of metabolic syndrome.
  • Elevated Fasting Glucose (Blood Sugar) Levels – If you have elevated fasting glucose levels higher than 100 milligrams per deciliter, it can be an indication of metabolic syndrome.
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) – Another indication of metabolic syndrome is having an increased blood pressure higher than 130/85 millimeters of mercury.
  • Large Waistline – If your waistline is larger than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, it can be an indication of metabolic syndrome.

Approximately 35 percent of Americans have metabolic syndrome; however, the number of people that develop metabolic syndrome increase with age. In fact, by the time a person reaches 60 years old or older, the risk of developing metabolic syndrome increases to 50 percent.

The question is why are our current treatment approaches not enough to control this significantly prevalent health issue?

The answer is because the majority of cases of metabolic syndrome is treated solely with medications to control the symptoms. However, the root causes of why this condition developed in the first place and what underlying imbalances are occurring in the body resulting in dysfunction are not addressed adequately. In other words, even if drugs are needed, it is still necessary to correct the underlying causes and work towards preventive health.

The metabolic syndrome traits listed above are highly linked to diet, lifestyle, inflammation, and environmental toxins and can be reversible in the vast majority of cases.

Health Complications Arising from Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome can lead to a number of health issues, including:

  • Arterial Damage – Metabolic syndrome can cause the lining of your arteries to become damaged, which can increase your risk of a stroke or heart disease.
  • Kidney Dysfunction – Metabolic syndrome can reduce the kidneys’ ability to remove sodium and salt from the body, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
  • Blood Clots – Because metabolic syndrome can damage the lining of your arteries, it can increase your risk of developing blood clots, which can result in a stroke or heart attack.
  • Diabetes – Metabolic syndrome is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and can damage your kidneys, nerves, and eyes.
  • Fatty Liver – Fatty liver occurs when the body stores excess fat in your liver. If left untreated, fatty liver can lead to inflammation of your liver (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis), cirrhosis of the liver (scarring), and eventually liver failure.
Risk Factors for Developing Metabolic Syndrome

Risk Factors for Developing Metabolic Syndrome

  • Central obesity, or excess fat around the middle and upper parts of the body
  • Insulin resistance, which makes it difficult for the body to use sugar appropriately
  • Age
  • Family history of metabolic syndrome
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Women who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome

However, insulin resistance (high blood sugar) is one of the key underlying drivers of metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance can cause weight gain, sugar cravings, and low energy as common symptoms and increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and a host of other serious health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, memory decline, and cancer.

What is Insulin Resistance

Insulin is a hormone released by our pancreas in response to a high sugar or carbohydrate load which comes mostly from our diet but can also be produced by our body in response to stress and inflammation.

Insulin’s job is to take the sugar or glucose from our digested meal and transfer it into our cells where it can be burned for necessary fuel and energy utilization by our body. If you have insulin resistance, however, insulin cannot do its job effectively. This results in the sugar or glucose remaining in the bloodstream and not getting inside the cells adequately causing high BLOOD sugar and low CELLULAR sugar. Low cellular glucose results in low metabolism and low energy due to lack of cellular fuel.

What is Insulin Resistance

Causes of Insulin Resistance

It is important to identify and address the causes some of which include…

  1. Diet (high-calorie, high-carbohydrate or high-sugar diet)
  2. Aging and Menopause (Postmenopausal women have an increased risk of insulin resistance)
  3. Excess body weight
  4. Too much belly fat
  5. Lack of exercise
  6. Sleep Deprivation
  7. Chronic stress or Adrenal/Cortisol imbalances
  8. Hormone Imbalances (eg too high testosterone and too high estrogen can contribute to insulin resistance)
  9. Nutrient Deficiencies such as zinc, chromium and manganese
  10. Numerous studies have shown that an imbalance in good and bad bacteria in our gut microbiome can influence insulin resistance and weight

Steps to Reverse or Reduce the Risks Associated with Metabolic Syndrome

Studies have shown that lifestyle changes make a significant difference with reversal of this condition and can easily be incorporated into your life for a positive impact to your overall health and vitality.

  • Decrease alcohol consumption – Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day if you are a woman and two drinks per day if you are a man.
  • Control inflammation with a healthy diet – Eating inflammatory foods are the biggest contributors to inflammation, especially sugars, refined carbohydrates, and processed junk food. It is beneficial to address food sensitivities and allergies and incorporate plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as healthy fats (wild-caught fish, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, cold pressed olive oil, etc), green, leafy vegetables, and anti-oxidant rich fruits such as berries. Make sure to get adequate and good quality protein and water.
  • Exercise regularly – this is a powerful tool to manage blood sugar levels and make your cells more insulin sensitive. Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. This can be broken down into 15 minute sessions throughout your week. The important thing is to get moving and get your heart rate up. Combining high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with weight resistance can be especially effective in managing blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Lose excess weight – Having a healthy BMI can decrease your risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Losing as little as 10 percent of your body weight can reduce your blood pressure, lower insulin resistance, and reduce the risk of diabetes.
  • Say No to tobacco – If you smoke, stop smoking. There are many wonderful programs out there that can help you kick the habit and get back control of your life.
  • Address nutrient deficiencies – such as vitamin D, chromium, magnesium, and alpha lipoic acid. These are just a few of the key nutrients that help with insulin sensitivity and reduced blood sugar levels.
  • Manage stress – Chronic stress elevates cortisol, a hormone which, in turn, elevates blood sugar and promotes the accumulation of belly fat. If you can’t eliminate stress, then reduce it’s impact through yoga, meditation, breathing, or anything that helps you “find your calm”.
  • Don’t skip out on sleep – Studies have found that poor sleep can contribute to insulin resistance and slow down metabolism. Make 7-8 hours of sleep a priority every night.

Treatment of Metabolic Syndrome

Because metabolic syndrome affects your entire body, an integrative doctor who understands the intricacies involved with reversing this condition can work with you to overcome this syndrome, reduce disease risk, and feel your best again.

Underlying causes will be identified and addressed accordingly. These include diet, exercise, sleep and stress management, cortisol and hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, gut “microbiome” imbalances, and inflammation.

Our integrative practitioners will work with you, in partnership, to help you understand your personalized risks and create a customized plan or roadmap towards preventive health and proactive wellness.

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