Healthy Habits: About Metabolic Syndrome

From LOSING IT! With Jillian Michaels
Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Jillian Michaels

Nearly one-quarter of Americans have a syndrome that dramatically raises their risk of developing other serious health conditions. It's called metabolic syndrome, and you have it if you meet three or more of the qualifying criteria:

  • A waist circumference greater than 40 inches in men, and greater than 35 inches in women
  • High triglycerides: 150 mg/dl or higher
  • Low HDL cholesterol (the "good" kind): less than 40 mg/dl in men; less than 50 mg/dl in women
  • High blood pressure, defined as a reading of 130 mm Hg or higher for systolic pressure (the top number), or 85 mm Hg or higher for diastolic pressure (the bottom number)
  • High blood sugar: a reading of 100 mg/dl or higher for a fasting blood glucose test

Why does metabolic syndrome matter? If you have it, your risk of developing heart disease doubles, and you're five times more likely to develop diabetes. You also have a higher chance of developing fatty liver disease or polycystic ovary syndrome.

The good news is that there are ways to fight metabolic syndrome and lower your risk for its related conditions. Metabolic syndrome is linked to insulin resistance, and many of the strategies for combating insulin resistance are helpful for people with metabolic syndrome. For example, if you're overweight, losing 10 percent of your body weight can cut your risk of diabetes and heart disease and raise your life expectancy. Eating four small meals a day, without going longer than four hours between meals, can help you stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels. And one of the most important changes you can make is to get more exercise, which can increase your cells' ability to use insulin.

If you think you might have metabolic syndrome, talk to your doctor. While it's a dangerous condition, the consequences are not a foregone conclusion — with diet and exercise you can take control of your metabolism and get healthier!

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