What is metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms and conditions that impact each other's development and collectively increase an individual's risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and many other health problems. The conditions, or risk factors, include insulin resistance, obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride level, and a host of symptoms associated with these conditions or the development of these conditions. Studies have shown that 32% of the U.S. population suffers from metabolic syndrome, making it an extremely common medical problem. Do note that suffering from one of the above conditions does not automatically equate a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome; metabolic syndrome entails multiple health problems negatively impacting each other in a quasi-vicious cycle, posing greater risks for more serious issues in the long run.
How does metabolic syndrome affect the body
Metabolic syndrome affects multiple systems in our body:
- One of the most common and defining pathology of metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance, usually due to a high intake of sugar and high fructose corn syrup in the diet, resulting in an elevated blood sugar level and a diminished ability for the body to burn off calories
- Excess sugar and insulin resistance saturate our liver with glycogen, forcing it to store excess energy in the form of fat and causing high triglyceride level and obesity, which closely correlate with
- Metabolic syndrome can also cause hormonal imbalances (the aforementioned insulin being one of them), which can be responsible for changes in mood, sex drive, metabolism, cognitive function, growth, and more
- Hormonal imbalances can also decrease our white blood cell count, which in turn impairing our immune system
- All of the above increase an individual's risk of developing blood clot, heart diseases, type-II diabetes, stroke, and more.
Symptoms of metabolic syndrome
Weight gain, insomnia, and flu like symptoms are common among patients suffering from metabolic syndrome. Other symptoms vary from individual to individual, from fatigue, vertigo, unusual hunger/thirst and frequent urination to ulcers, sleep apnea, and eyesight problems. Metabolic syndrome requires a proper diagnosis from a physician. Depending on your symptoms, primary care doctors, internists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, and neurologists are all viable options.
No one wakes up with metabolic syndrome - it takes time to develop and become a health issue for a lot of us. It is very common, often times unnoticed and untreated. What we need to understand is how interdependent different systems in our body are and that prevention is key. Even more importantly, we have to realize how a seemingly trivial problem, when left untreated, can create a spiral of health issues in the long run. On the other hand, just because you are being treated by a medical professional for one of the symptoms/conditions listed above does not mean you have everything taken care of. A conscious effort in staying healthy is absolutely necessary. Don't sweat it just yet, here are some things you can do.
What can you do
- Maintain a healthy diet - Look, you don't have to eat like a rabbit to be healthy. As a rule of thumb, stay away from fried food, processed sugar/grains, and too much sodium and you are 90% there. For more information on nutrition and diet, I suggest you click here and here. Or better yet, pay a visit to a certified nutritionist or dietician
- Exercise - People are going to tell you weight training is better, or HIIT is better, or yoga is better. My two cents is this: pick something you like to do, and do it A LOT. It can be taking a walk with your partner, basketball, or cycling by the water every evening. Some houseworks also count as well (and you will have a cleaner apartment!)
- Lower or eliminate consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs
- Manage your stress - A lot of us function well, or even better, under stress. That does not mean we do not experience it and that it does not have any effect on our body. Take breaks, go for walks, and allow your body and mind to breath
- SLEEP - I cannot stress enough how important this is. Our body regenerates, reboots, and does a lot of maintenance work during our sleep. You cannot out-diet, out-exercise, or out-anything a lack of sleep. Go to bed at a regular time and sleep at least 6-8 hours every night.
Have you been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome? Comment below and share your experience with us!