According to the American Heart Association, as many as 1 in 3 American adults may have metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a collection of factors that increase a person’s risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
Fortunately, it is treatable—and it may be preventable. Learn about the signs, and how you can reduce your risk.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), metabolic syndrome includes these factors:
- A large waistline.
- High blood pressure.
- High triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).
- Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
- High blood sugar.
A person with three or more of these factors is considered to have metabolic syndrome. In general, having this syndrome doubles a person’s risk of heart disease, reports the NHLBI.
Reduce your risk
A healthy lifestyle is the first line of defense against metabolic syndrome, according to the NHLBI. It’s also the first line of treatment for people who already have it. That includes:
A heart-healthy diet. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; lean meats, poultry, fish and beans; and low-fat or nonfat dairy. It’s also important not to overeat and to limit your intake of salt, cholesterol and unhealthy fats.
A healthy body weight. Visit www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi to calculate your BMI (body mass index), which measures your weight in relation to your height and gives an estimate of your total body fat. To lower your risk of metabolic syndrome, aim for a BMI of less than 25.
Regular exercise. Physical activity helps strengthen your heart and lungs. The more you do, the more benefits you’ll see. If you’re inactive, talk with your doctor about the best way to start.
Not smoking. Smoking raises your risk of heart disease and worsens other risk factors.
Getting screened. Know your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar numbers. Keep them in a healthy range. This will help you reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and other health problems.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to control risk factors, your doctor may prescribe medication.