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Understanding Metabolic Syndrome (MetS)

By: Ann Marie Coppen

Anne Marie Coppen

PhD, FNP, Nurse Practitioner

For a personal response to your health question, Ask Ann Marie at askannmarie@lindora.com. Selected questions will be featured in future columns.


“Be proactive and commit to knowing your numbers.”

Q. “My doctor mentioned Metabolic Syndrome (MetS).  What is it exactly and what does it mean?”

First of all, I congratulate you on your interest in finding out more about MetS. Becoming more educated and ‘knowing your numbers’ is critically helpful in avoiding health issues like MetS. Each of the below risk factors is considered dangerous, but when they occur together, the overall risk to your health can be significant. Lindora founder Marshall Stamper, M.D. refers to the condition as “the silent killer.” If left untreated, it leads to diabetes, chronic hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and even death. Unfortunately, most people don’t even know they’re vulnerable until it either claims their health or their life.

A diagnosis of MetS is made when three or more of the factors below are present.  If you have MetS you are twice as likely to develop heart disease, and five times more likely to develop diabetes, than those who don’t have the condition. As a driver, awareness is the first step to taking positive actions for your health to ‘keep you on-the-road’.

  1. A waist measurement 40” or more for men; 35” or more for women
  2. Fasting triglyceride level of 150mg/dl or greater – or if you’re taking medication to treat high triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in the blood
  3. HDL cholesterol levels below 40mg/dl for men; below 50mg/dl for women – or if you’re taking medication to treat low HDL cholesterol
  4. Blood pressure of 130/85 or higher – or if you’re being treated for high blood pressure
  5. Fasting blood sugar of 100mg/dl or higher – or if you are taking glucose-lowering medication

Don’t despair, here is THE GOOD NEWS!! You can reduce your risk of MetS and the health risks associated with this condition.

How do I reduce my risk for MetS?

By being proactive, knowing your numbers and committing to making a few small lifestyle changes that will impact your health and life greatly. No matter what our age or stage, we each have the power to directly improve our health, our bodies and our lives. Whether you engage in a structured weight loss program along with physical activity or simply begin making gradual lifestyle improvements on your own, there are questions you can answer that will reveal important information about your health:

  • How much do you weigh?
  • What is your blood pressure?
  • What are your cholesterol numbers?
  • How many hours of sleep a night do you average?
  • How many steps do you take a day?

If you don’t “know your numbers,” you may want to consult with your physician and discuss this important information. These numbers can add up to provide a very valuable health overview—and give you a starting point from which to improve!

Nearly one in four American adults is living with this potentially fatal disease known as metabolic syndrome. Are you one of them? Over time unhealthy habits like poor diet choices and consuming too many calories, along with making excuses to not exercise or engage in physical activity can lead to a deadly combination.

Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent metabolic syndrome, and it is also the mainstay of treatment once the condition has developed. Exercise treats metabolic syndrome by impacting all five diagnostic conditions listed above. Exercise promotes burning calories and contributes to weight loss. According to a 2003 study cited by Harvard Men’s Health Watch newsletter, exercise was found to have a specific ability to reduce abdominal obesity.

Additional Benefits of Exercise:
  • It helps reduce triglyceride levels & boosts the levels of good HDL cholesterol.
  • It’s one of the most important lifestyle treatments for hypertension and is also helpful for impacting pre-hypertension.
  • It contributes to muscle and other body tissues being more sensitive to insulin, which means less insulin is needed to keep blood sugar down.
  • It helps prevent type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and lowering insulin levels.
  • It helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and it reduces c-reactive protein levels, which impacts inflammation in the arteries.

The American Heart Association recommends moderate physical activity such as walking 30 minutes a day, five days per week. By making moderate exercise a part of your daily routine, making healthier food choices, and not over eating you can improve your health and longevity.

I challenge you to commit to one or two lifestyle changes today.  How about –

1. Taking a short walk every time you come to a truck stop or take a break?

2. Commit to choosing healthier meals and no supersizing.

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