Health Risks with Metabolic Syndrome
Let’s take a look at specific factors of metabolic syndrome and what they do to your body. High blood pressure, elevated lipids, especially high LDL (bad cholesterol that you want to be a low number) and low HDL (good cholesterol that you want to be a high number), insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides and hypertension are all health concerns that can cause metabolic syndrome.
If you have three or more of the above factors you have metabolic syndrome.
Your arteries become stiffer (less flexible) over time with high blood pressure and this continues to put your blood flow under more pressure.
Thickened arteries can cause your heart muscle to become thicker over time. Damage to arteries, plaque buildup and narrow blood vessels make your heart have to work harder to pump blood throughout the body and causes stress to the heart and increased blood pressure.
The build up of materials, plaque and lipids can lead to clots: heart attack if the clot occurs in the heart or stroke if in the brain.
Your blood pressure and lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) need to be kept at healthy levels.
Your cholesterol is necessary for different cellular functions in your body and the majority is made by your own liver. For many people dietary cholesterol intake can also be a major contributor to cholesterol levels. Plaque builds up if you don’t have healthy lipid levels. And the blood and oxygen flow to your heart and brain can be affected.
What causes high LDL (bad) cholesterol? It can be hereditary and it does increase with age. However, the major contributor is a bad diet, specifically one that is high in saturated fat and particularly high in trans fatty acids. Being overweight or obese greatly contributes to higher LDL and low HDL numbers.
HDL plays a positive role by carrying cholesterol away from arteries and back to the liver where it is passed from the body through the GI tract. Good cholesterol helps lessen the chance for plaque buildup.
Triglycerides are fatty particles found in your blood stream and contain more than twice as much energy as carbohydrates or protein. When your body requires fatty acids for energy, triglycerides are broken down to release fatty acids.
If you take in more fats than your body immediately needs, triglycerides are stored as fat cells. It is a pretty efficient system unless the foods you eat have too much fat and your system gets overloaded. Then triglycerides continue to circulate in the blood stream hooking up with cholesterol and other debris and contributing to the build up of plaque.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, one out of every three Americans have elevated triglyceride levels. It is important for everyone to know, your diet is by far the major contributor to elevated triglycerides. Keep LDL low: if your number is higher than 150 you need to take a serious look at changing your diet. Keep HDL high: 40 for men and 50 for women.
What you need to know about Insulin
Normally the carbohydrates you ingest from food are digested and broken down into glucose. That glucose circulates in your blood stream and enters your cells where it is used as fuel.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is a hormone that regulates cells, allowing glucose to enter and fuel the cell’s function. A healthy pancreas adjusts to the amount of insulin based on the amount of circulating glucose in the blood.
When you eat more calories than your body needs, more insulin is produced to help metabolize those higher levels of blood sugar. Over time, if you continue to feed your body more calories than it needs, your cells gradually become less sensitive to the effects of insulin. The system becomes overloaded and will, over time, lead to insulin resistance.
And when your cells are insulin resistant, that means they don’t respond and glucose can’t enter the cells efficiently. Your pancreas reacts to that situation by pouring more and more insulin into your blood stream and trying to lower the blood glucose levels to where they should be. But the cells are increasingly resistant to the insulin and these high levels of glucose just keep circulating in your blood stream.
When your fasting blood sugar rises above 120, you now have Type 2 Diabetes. Elevated blood sugar levels are extremely toxic to your tissues which leads to other health conditions associated with Type 2 Diabetes such as heart disease, kidney disease and blindness.
According to recent stats from the American Heart Association, diabetes contributes to about 225,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
Diabetes and pro-inflammatory response in blood vessels are inter-connected.
95% of all diabetes is the Type 2 variety – caused by being over-weight and over-eating. Having diabetes doubles the risk of having cardiovascular disease. 75% of people with diabetes die of heart disease or stroke. Obesity is -by far -the leading cause of developing diabetes. The higher your body fat, the higher chance you have of developing insulin resistant and ultimately diabetes.
When you carry excess weight around your abdomen, this is another independent risk factor of heart disease and diabetes. You can’t control where your body deposits extra fat, you can determine how to lose the extra fat.
In 2005, researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that obese subjects had significantly more fat cells. Elevated levels of C-reactive proteins are associated with many inflammatory conditions in the body including heart disease.
The higher the CRP level, the higher the risk of heart attack. Atherosclerosis causes inflammation, and higher levels of inflammation cause further damage to the lining of the arteries and allows high circulating levels of cholesterol to attach. Plaque continues to build up and can contribute to a heart attack, kidney disease or stroke over time.
We do have positives here. The good news is that we know how to address a lot of these factors that can contribute to metabolic syndrome. Whether you have one or multiple factors, you have some power!
Consistent attention to changing your diet and lifestyle can have incredibly positive effects on future health. Top of the list choices to consider are losing weight if you are obese and smoking because both can reduce life expectancy at least six to seven years. If risk factors are combined there is even more chance of dying early.
Watch your diet because people who have excess body fat, especially abdominal fat, are three times more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes. The apple shape of the body is the one that you most have to worry about.
It is essential to manage your weight because losing as little as 5 to 10% of your body weight can reduce insulin levels and blood pressure and decrease your risk of diabetes.
Other Lifestyle Changes
Move more! Get active in some activity that you like or exercise by walking at least 30 minutes per day. The more the better and you don’t have to do it all at one time, it should just add up to 30 minutes every day.
If you smoke, STOP! It’s that important that you do. Smoking increases insulin resistance and risk of metabolic syndrome plus lung and other types of cancer.
Increase food with dietary fiber in your daily diet. The more whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and other high fiber foods you eat, the lower your blood sugar levels will be, the lower your insulin levels will be and it is less likely that you will develop insulin resistance or diabetes.
Avoid high fat foods, especially saturated fats. Choose lean cuts of white meat or fish over red meat. Stay away from processed or deep fried foods completely.
We now know that certain foods can actually cause inflammation while other food help to fight it in the body. Vegetables are high on the list of anti-inflammatory foods, especially dark green, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Avacados are a great source of anti-inflammatory and omega-3 fatty acids, as is olive oil. Sweet potatos and orange vegetables contain carotenoids and antioxidants that help fight inflammation. Most fruits especially berries are anti-inflammatory, as are spices such as oregano, basil and mint. Green tea is a great beverage source of anti-oxidants and other health benefits.
There are so many wonderful herbs and spices that you can use to flavor food instead of using fats, butter, or sugar. They will contribute to your health instead of to disease. You should slow down on your salt intake because salt contributes to high blood pressure. Read labels and stay away from products that have more than 400-500 mg of sodium per serving. If you have high blood pressure, don’t add salt to your food.
You have the choice to make a change in your very next meal. You can start a weight and exercise program TODAY! You are in control of your future health and will like the results you get if you make the right and healthy choices.