Metabolic Syndrome is a condition that was only identified about 20 years ago. It’s a condition many people have but few understand. Even the experts debate its existence. But most would agree that the risk factors that make up Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome-X as it’s sometimes called are very real and very serious. According to the American Heart Association some 47 million people have it. That amounts to one in six people.
It’s new, it’s common, and it has a scary name. So what is it? In truth, Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome-X) is not a really a disease, it’s a group of risk factors. None of these risk factors alone are good news, but when combined they are indeed scary. They are high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat. Among other things they can double your risk of blood vessel and heart disease and increase your risk of diabetes by five times.
Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome
According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are five risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome. Being diagnosed with at least three of these risks factors means you have Metabolic Syndrome.
Large Waist Size
For men: 40 inches or larger
For women: 35 inches or larger
Cholesterol: High Triglycerides
Either 150 mg/dL or higher
or Using a cholesterol medicine
Cholesterol: Low Good Cholesterol (HDL)
For men: Less than 40 mg/dL
For women: Less than 50 mg/dL
or Using a cholesterol medicine
High Blood Pressure
Either Having blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or greater
or Using a high blood pressure medicine
Blood Sugar: High Fasting Glucose Level
100 mg/dL or higher
Since it’s a collection of risk factors rather than a disease, the experts aren’t exactly sure how it develops. They have however identified some risk factors. These include Insulin resistance, unhealthy lifestyle, obesity (particularly in the abdominal area), and hormonal imbalance.
Even though Syndrome-X is becoming more common, there is good news. It can be controlled by making lifestyle changes.
Yes, these are the very same changes we’re always speaking of. First off you need to eat healthy. No surprise there. Second you need to become more active. You don’t need to go over-board, just do something you enjoy. If nothing else, walking is a great way to burn some calories and unlike some activities it won’t interfere with that most important of exercises. Yep, you guessed it, strength training.
Strength training increases lean tissue and this allows for more storage of glucose and greater glucose uptake therefore helping to lower blood sugar.
Strength training has been shown in numerous studies to decrease peripheral insulin resistance. This has huge implications for sufferers of Syndrome-X and type 2 diabetes. Ivy (1996) showed that improvements in insulin resistance and glucose tolerance with strength training are highly related to an increased skeletal muscle insulin action. Subjects undergoing resistance training improved many of the abnormalities associated with this metabolic syndrome: namely glucose intolerance, hyperinsulinemia, abdominal adiposity, hypertension, and hypertriglyceridemia, Castaneda (2002).
There is also evidence that strength training increases HDL cholesterol in normal subjects and lowers triglyceride and LDL levels in type 2 diabetics Willey (2003). In addition strength training has been shown to reduce visceral fat deposition by way of enhanced basal metabolism and activity levels while counteracting age and disease related muscle wasting.
Strength training improves insulin sensitivity and glycemic control, and has positive effects on hypertension and lipid profiles Willey (2003).
The risk factors that make up Metabolic Syndrome / Syndrome-X are real, but we have an arsenal of weapons at our disposal. Lifestyle changes including diet, increased calorie expenditure and of course, strength training. It’s a battle we can win.