What does it mean when your doctor says you have metabolic syndrome? What’s causing this mysterious syndrome? Can you change it? The good news is that yes, there are some factors of metabolic syndrome that are within your control.
First, let’s learn about what it is.
What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a “collection” of abnormalities that includes obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You are probably familiar with most of these terms, but may not know what insulin resistance means.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by our pancreas. It controls our blood sugar levels. Insulin’s job is to pull sugar and carbohydrates from our blood stream and put it into our cells where we can use it for energy. Insulin resistance means that your cells are resisting the signal from the insulin that says that the energy needs to go into your cells.
In response to this resistance, your body makes more insulin. Unfortunately, a person can only produce so much insulin in their lifetime. Consistently overproducing insulin means that at some point, your body will say “no thank you!” and stop producing so much insulin. This drop in insulin production means that your body will have higher blood sugars because the insulin isn’t there to move energy from your blood stream into your cells.
How can I treat it?
Now that you know the basic criteria for metabolic syndrome and what insulin resistance is, what’s next? There are several ways to help control and improve metabolic syndrome symptoms. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help you get back on track.
1. Manage your weight.
When it comes to weight loss, I challenge you not to lean on fad diets and short-term solutions. Why? Because if you want to decrease your risk of metabolic syndrome and improve your health, we need to think about long-term solutions.
I am pretty sure that any of us could easily come up with some ideas of how we could improve our weight. Here are some of my ideas:
- Eliminate one sugary drink a day (think pop, juice, energy drinks and sugared up coffee drinks).
- Eliminate one sweet treat a week.
- Replace your snack of chips with a piece of fresh fruit.
- Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water daily.
2. Stop smoking.
This is a tricky one for many people. As anyone who smokes knows, quitting smoking is HARD! But the results are so extremely worth it. And there are resources to help. You can call the Michigan or Ohio Quit Lines for help at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).
3. Monitor your blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is routinely over 140/90, talk with your doctor about medication management. Elevated blood pressure can be a significant health risk. We often think of high blood pressure in relation to decreasing sodium intake, but in reality there are a lot of things that can positively affect blood pressure. This includes weight management, more physical activity, improved stress management, and healthier food choices, including low sodium options.
4. Monitor cholesterol levels.
Many physicians monitor lab work yearly. Keeping track of trends with these numbers will help you assess what needs to change. Several factors effect these numbers including many of the items we have already discussed, such as weight management and physical activity. It’s important to become familiar with what each of the numbers mean and what level your doctor would like for you to achieve.
5. Enjoy physical activity.
Movement varies from person to person. There is no ONE right way to be more physically active. Here are some suggestions.
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Play outside with the kids.
- Garden or participate in a community garden if you don’t have one in your yard.
- Use online videos as at-home exercise classes.
- Jump rope.
- Walk up and down the stairs in your house.
- Start a walking club with your neighbors.
Whatever you do, try not to be intimidated by doing it all. Small, livable changes can add up to HUGE results. The best version of you is waiting!
Jennifer Gilliland is an outpatient dietitian with ProMedica and a professional clinical counselor. She enjoys talking with people about the behavioral side of eating as well as educating people on the healthiest food choices.