I recently got an email with this subject line from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. In it there was a checklist of risk factors. You can develop any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. If you have three or more of these factors, you are diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome. Your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke increases with the number of metabolic risk factors you have. In general, a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn't have metabolic syndrome. Here's the list:
- High waist measurement: More than 35 inches for women, more than 40 inches for men
- High triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or more
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol level: Less than 50 mg/dL for women, less than 40 mg/dL for men
- Blood pressure of 130/85 or more
- High fasting blood sugar of 100 mg/dL or more
What is significant to me about this email was that by definition I no longer have metabolic syndrome. Yes, my waist measurement is still (significantly) above the optimum, but everything else has improved! I am amazed and greatful that as soon as I changed what I put in my mouth and started moving a bit, my body has been able to heal itself!
If you are reading this, have metabolic syndrome, and feel (as I did a year or so ago) that you can't make the changes, I beg you to just do three things.
First, schedule a doctor's visit for an exam and bloodwork. Keep track of your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
Engage in regular physical activity. Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. This is only 15 bouts of 10 minute increments throughout an entire week! Take a walk on your break at work, park your car at the far edge of the parking lot and walk to the store, jog around your living room, whatever you can do to get the minutes in. Even better? Aim for 30 minutes a day, broken into 10 minutes each... you can do it!
While you're at the store, purchase food that allows you to follow a healthy diet. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and low-fat dairy products. No need for extremes here, just try to eat less processed food with as many colors as you can get on a plate. I have a co-workers who regularly stops by my table at lunch to see how many colors I'm eating! Make it delicious, make it fun.
My weight loss over the last two years has been slow, only 50 pounds so far, but my activity level has increased dramatically. I no longer go home after work and have to lay down with my feet up because my ankles are so swollen that they hurt. I can actually consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator. I can walk farther than the mailbox without getting winded.
I have come back to life. I wish the same for you...