Metabolic Syndrome 

Written by: Dr. Natalie Ledbetter

According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease control (CDC), 42.4% of all adult Americans suffer from obesity. Many patients with obesity at are at increased risk for serious health complications. Obesity, especially visceral obesity, which is concentrated around the midsection, is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome. This is a cluster of physiological and metabolic characteristics that increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. This syndrome is often related to insulin resistance. When cells become resistant to insulin, blood sugar levels rise, even while the body continues to produce more and more insulin. This causes an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and other complications related to elevated blood sugar levels. 

By 2012 over 1/3 of all the adults in the United States met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. Symptoms include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and abnormal triglycerides. One or two of these conditions do not indicate metabolic syndrome but even just one increases the risk of chronic health problems. To meet the criteria as having metabolic syndrome, at least three of these symptoms must be present. 

Addressing Underlying Causes 

It is highly recommended to make immediate and drastic (if necessary) lifestyle changes to address the compound health risks of metabolic syndrome. These lifestyle changes include getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, eliminating processed foods and those with high levels of saturated fats, and adopting a diet that centers around organic vegetables and lean organic proteins. This can also involve  losing and maintaining a healthy weight and body mass index, and eliminating tobacco use. 

Hormone-Metabolism Link 

In both men and women, there is a relationship between hormone imbalance and metabolic syndrome. For women, the risk of developing metabolic syndrome is more common following menopause. Imbalanced estrogen and testosterone levels can lead to excess visceral fat and increase the risk of insulin resistance. In men a reduction of testosterone and a change in the levels of sex hormone binding globulin can occur during andropause and increase the risk of obesity and insulin resistance associated with metabolic syndrome. 

What Can be Done to Prevent or Reverse Metabolic Syndrome? 

Exercise is of paramount importance in the prevention or reversal of metabolic syndrome and many other chronic health conditions. Daily walking, jogging, bike riding, etc. and weightlifting can help decrease blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and ratios, increase metabolic rate, and improve cellular sensitivity to insulin. 

Exercise is a good way to lose weight but even without weight loss exercise helps to improve health. When out of shape, start slowly. Walk more whenever possible and incorporate this into a lifestyle routine. Park farther away from the intended destination to increase steps and gradually increase physical activity until it becomes an almost daily event. 

Eating a healthy diet can improve cholesterol levels and ratios, blood pressure, and decrease insulin resistance. For advice on healthy eating, consult a doctor or functional medicine practitioner for tips and plans for healthy eating. They can look at lab values and genetic data and design an eating plan specific to each individual. 

A Mediterranean diet is often recommended and works well for many people to improve health and wellness. 

It is important to have lab values checked and reviewed including hormone levels to look at thyroid, adrenal, pituitary, and sex organ function. These hormone levels can help the practitioner design a plan that meets specific individual needs and addresses genetic variations. 

Metabolic syndrome is common In the United States and affects millions of lives. Without treatment metabolic syndrome can lead to severe chronic health issues and even death. There are multiple things that one can do to prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome. Contact your functional medicine practitioner for more ideas and lifestyle changes that can be incorporated to overcome or prevent this common syndrome. 

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