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What Is Metabolic Syndrome? Causes, Diet Tips & More

Many people have heard the term “metabolic syndrome” but don’t know what this disorder entails. Look no further to understand this tricky collection of symptoms.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome? Causes, Diet Tips & More

Wondering what the best diet for metabolic syndrome is? Understanding metabolic syndrome causes can be crucial in designing the right diet pattern and treatment plan.

From risk factors to symptom management, diet plays a key part in metabolic disorders. Join us as we explore all things metabolic syndrome, including the best metabolic syndrome diet. 

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

When it comes to defining metabolic syndrome, it helps to break the disorder down. The word “metabolic” refers to metabolism and the word “syndrome” means a collection of symptoms. While metabolic syndrome is far from simple, it’s a condition where the body can’t break down nutrients and other substances properly at its root. 

Metabolic syndrome has historically been known by other names, including syndrome X—when it was newly discovered—and insulin resistance syndrome. While some variation exists among the definitions, almost all include the same causes and symptoms. 

Metabolic Syndrome Causes

Since metabolic syndrome is complex, it can have a number of possible causes. Potential health concerns contributing to metabolic syndrome include:

• Genetic predisposition
• Lack of physical activity 
• Obesity 

Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when three or more of the following factors exist at the same time: 

• Excess body fat around the waist (often called abdominal obesity)
• High blood pressure 
• High fasting blood sugar levels 
• High triglyceride
• Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good cholesterol”) 

Not only are these markers considered risk factors for metabolic syndrome, but they considerably increase the risk for the following health problems: 

• Cancer
• Heart disease 
• Insulin resistance
• Stroke
• Type 2 diabetes

In the United States, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome rose from 25% to 35% from the 1980s to 2012—affecting nearly 1 in 3 adults. Since metabolic syndrome affects many systems in the body, rising rates have health practitioners rightfully concerned.

Fortunately, many forms of prevention and treatment exist to help you avoid serious health complications. 

Metabolic Syndrome Prevention and Treatment

Reversing risk factors of metabolic disease involves making healthy lifestyle changes, often called therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLCs). As one study so aptly put it, “Clinicians should not let the perfect be the enemy of the possible.”

Progress in any of the following areas is worth celebrating since progress can help protect your body from losing vital functions. 

Attend Regular Doctor’s Appointments 

Routinely meeting with your healthcare team can help you to understand your level of risk. For example, if your blood sugar levels are a concern, getting regular lab work done can alert you to high blood sugar levels. A fasting blood glucose test of 100 mg/dL or higher is a significant risk factor for metabolic disease and your doctor can help you identify if you fall in this category. 

Additionally, testing for triglycerides and cholesterol levels can help to keep you on track. Triglyceride levels higher than 150 mg/dL and HDL levels less than 50 mg/dL may be cause for concern. 

Keep An Eye On Blood Pressure 

Currently, a blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg (or higher) is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome. The following blood pressures are recommended as a target for those with risk factors for metabolic syndrome: 

General population: 140/90 mmHg
Diabetics: 130/80 mmHg
Elderly population: 150/90 mmHg

Other habits, like quitting smoking or implementing stress management strategies, may also help keep blood pressure at a normal level. 

Consider Weight Loss

If you have an accumulation of fat in the abdomen, weight loss may be suggested by a health practitioner. Weight loss doesn’t have to be drastic to make a difference. A 7-10% reduction of weight can improve health conditions related to metabolic syndrome, such as: 

• High blood pressure
• High blood sugar
• High cholesterol 

Weight loss may also reduce the risk of conditions like insulin resistance and diabetes. Beyond weight loss, it’s important to continue to maintain a healthy weight. 

Find a Workout That Works for You

Exercise doesn’t always need to be intense to be effective. Light to moderate activity can help to prevent metabolic syndrome or reduce risk factors. In fact, research shows that metabolic syndrome happens less often in people who are physically active. 

Even 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week can make a difference. Start with activities like brisk walking and work up to other forms of exercise. 

Ask About Medication

In some cases, medication may be indicated. Along with lifestyle changes, medication can be used to reduce blood pressure, balance blood sugars, and help control cholesterol. 

Metabolic Syndrome Diet Tips

A heart-healthy diet can prevent or alleviate metabolic syndrome. This can include eating more low-fat, high-fiber foods, along with lean proteins, quality carbohydrates, and healthy (unsaturated) fats. 

One example of a meal plan that may work for you is the Mediterranean diet. It contains plenty of nutritious and delicious foods, including: 

• Fruits and vegetables 
• Fresh herbs (instead of salt)
• Legumes
• Nuts and seeds
• Olive oil

The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is also often recommended as a form of prevention or as part of a treatment plan. 

Stick to Proper Portion Sizes

Some lifestyle habits, like eating large portion sizes, may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Understanding recommended serving sizes can help you to eat a well-balanced diet. 

Don’t know where to start? Work with a dietitian to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need while sticking to appropriate portion sizes. 

Make It Simple 

Instead of overcomplicating matters, bistroMD can help make healthy eating simple. With balanced meals, you can be sure you’re making progress and reducing disease risk. 

In Summary on Metabolic Syndrome

Adhering to a healthy diet while dealing with metabolic syndrome can help ameliorate symptoms, such as high blood pressure. Reducing risk for complications and related conditions, such as diabetes, is also an important part of any treatment plan.

Working closely with a qualified healthcare team can help you keep an eye on risk factors.

Related Questions: Metabolic Syndrome

What are the five signs of metabolic syndrome?

Typically, the five signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome are abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar levels, high triglycerides, and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. 

How do you fix metabolic syndrome? 

Metabolic syndrome can be managed with the help of a healthy lifestyle. Generally, treatment plans include a combination of medicine and lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and exercise plan along with effective stress management strategies. 


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