As many as one in three American adults may have metabolic syndrome, according to medical studies. This syndrome is a collection of factors that increase a person’s risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Fortunately, it is treatable — and preventable.
Children also are increasingly being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, and a medical study released this month showed that children with this syndrome scored significantly lower on standardized tests compared to children without metabolic syndrome.
There are different definitions for metabolic syndrome, but the most commonly used come from The National Cholesterol Education Program and the International Diabetes Foundation:
• A large waistline (greater than 40 inches in men, greater than 35 inches in women)
• High blood pressure (greater than 130 systolic, greater than 85 diastolic or on medication for high blood pressure)
• High triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), greater than 150 or on medication for high triglycerides
• Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Less than 40 in men, less than 50 in women or on medication to treat low HDL
• High blood sugar (greater than 100 fasting or treatment for high blood sugar)
A person with three or more of these factors is considered to have metabolic syndrome.
Reduce your risk:
A healthy lifestyle is the most important factor in preventing metabolic syndrome. It’s also the first line of treatment for people who already have it.
• A heart-healthy diet. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; lean meats, poultry, fish and beans; and low-fat or nonfat dairy. It’s also important not to overeat, and to limit your intake of salt, cholesterol and unhealthy fats.
• A healthy body weight. Visit www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi to calculate your BMI (body mass index), which measures your weight in relation to your height and gives an estimate of your total body fat. To lower your risk of metabolic syndrome, aim for a BMI of less than 25.
• Regular exercise. Physical activity helps strengthen your heart and lungs. The more you do, the more benefits you’ll see. If you’re inactive, talk with your doctor about the best way to start.
• Not smoking. Smoking raises your risk of heart disease and worsens other risk factors.
• Getting screened. Know your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar numbers. Keep them in a healthy range. This will help you reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and other health problems.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to control risk factors, your doctor may discuss medication options to treat specific conditions.