Lifestyle Choices and Metabolic Syndrome: Your Path to Health and Wellness
Sadly, the primary focus of the 21st-century lifestyle has been on convenience rather than health, leading to a surge in the incidence of metabolic syndrome. The term can be best defined as a catchall for a variety of risk factors associated with fatal cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, strokes, transient ischaemic attacks (TIA) and aortic aneurysms.
While some people may be genetically predisposed to these conditions, they can be prevented in most cases with appropriate precautions. The main risk factors of the syndrome are as follows:
- Increased belly fat: Abdominal obesity is defined in females as a waist circumference greater than 88 centimetres, or 102 cm in males and is one of the most frequently seen symptoms in metabolic syndrome.
- Hypertension: Often described as “the silent killer”, high blood pressure has strong ties with obesity and is often associated with insulin resistance. Diets high in salt, smoking, excessive intake of alcohol and caffeinated drinks, and, as in obesity, lack of exercise can all cause hypertension.
- Raised fasting blood sugar: After an 8-hour fast, the blood glucose level should not exceed 5,5 mmol/l (100mg/dl). Higher levels could indicate type 1 diabetes or prediabetic status.
- High blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels: These are types of fat found in the blood. Raised levels can lead to the thickening of arterial walls (arteriosclerosis) and pancreatitis.
- Low HDL levels: Sometimes described as “good cholesterol”, high-density lipoproteins absorb “bad cholesterol” and transport it to the liver, where it is converted to bile acids and eliminated in the faeces.
Although each of the above symptoms contributes in some way to a severe or potentially fatal illness, they are mostly preventable with a few basic adjustments to our lifestyles.
Who is Most at Risk of Metabolic Syndrome?
There are several factors associated with this syndrome. Some are beyond our control, but the majority can be managed with a bit of self-discipline. These are the risk factors most closely tied to it:
- Age: Susceptibility increases with age.
- Ethnicity: The incidence is among African and Mexican Americans, and African-American females are about 60% more susceptible than African-American males.
- Personal or family history of diabetes: A family member with Type 2 diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy carries a heightened risk.
- Menopause: The risk is higher in post-menopausal women.
Other factors include stress, a high-fat diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
Treating and Preventing Metabolic Syndrome
As yet, there is no miracle drug to eliminate all the factors that lead to this syndrome. Although weight loss surgery can help treat morbid obesity, in most cases, prevention and cure will be mainly achieved through lifestyle changes, beginning with a healthy diet and exercise.
Research has shown that mental health and several symptoms of the syndrome, including obesity and raised blood glucose, are linked to disturbances in the gut microbiome. The term refers to a complex mix of beneficial microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract. One species named Akkermansia muciniphila has been proven, through clinical trials, to play a role in controlling body mass and blood glucose levels.
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