In this column a couple of years ago I listed several possible conditions related to metabolic syndrome.
The list included items primarily concerned with excess weight, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and elevated blood pressure. In many people with metabolic syndrome these conditions will be accompanied by insulin resistance.
Metabolic syndrome has also been called syndrome X. It is a collection of symptoms that occur in individuals as they change over time, generally as a result of gaining weight and becoming more sedentary.
Unfortunately, many patients wait until their condition is so bad that medications must be used to try to reduce the threat of disease associated with metabolic syndrome. This is not the best way to address this issue.
It is much better to recognize the changes in your health before you get to a point that medication is necessary.
Just as gaining weight and becoming more sedentary are the primary factors that lead to the condition, it is often possible to completely reverse the condition by losing weight and becoming more active.
Surprisingly, it may be possible to begin to turn metabolic syndrome around after losing as little as 5 percent of your total body weight. For example if a person weighs 250 pounds, a loss of 13 pounds can make a difference.
Losing 10 percent or more of your body weight can sometimes make a dramatic difference in your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the most significant risk associated with metabolic syndrome.
This amount of weight loss can also reverse insulin resistance in many people.
As an example, a patient in our office weighed 251 pounds about three months ago. By following the recommended dietary program, his weight dropped to 227. His fasting blood sugar was measured at 195 prior to beginning the program and is now averaging 115 on a daily basis.
Notice that this change is about 10 percent of his body weight. This type of change will also improve his cholesterol readings.
As he makes further progress by adding recommended exercise, he will continue to improve his weight, his body composition, his blood pressure and energy levels.
These changes are not as difficult as many people may believe. However, it does take commitment and persistence.
Although some people have the perception that suffering is required to lose weight, in most cases changes can be accomplished by following through with simple, easy recommendations as you gradually make lifestyle changes.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, making lifestyle changes including moderate exercise and a dietary program such as a low carbohydrate eating plan can result in reversing metabolic syndrome. They also recommend that people set a target of reducing 5-10 percent of their body weight as an initial goal.
If this sounds too good to be true, and you’re thinking there must be a catch, you may be right. In some studies that have shown a reversal of metabolic syndrome, it has been found that an ongoing change in body composition as well as a change in eating habits and activity is necessary to truly accomplish a reversal or the metabolic indicators.
In other words, a crash diet won’t work. If a person wants to change their health, it is important to actually change some of the habits that led to the problem in the first place.
This kind of change is very realistically possible, but it takes time and persistence.
In addition to the dietary recommendations, activity modifications are usually necessary. In most cases this means the recommendation to engage in a specific amount of exercise each week.
Our lifestyles have shifted over the years to create more stress, involve eating less wholesome foods and reduced physical activity. It takes an intentional effort to alter personal habits to overcome this cultural tendency.
In fact, this may be the most difficult part of reversing metabolic syndrome. Often people have developed habits that are very difficult to change because of the influence of their work, family and other commitments.
If you know someone with metabolic syndrome, be encouraging and support their commitment to turn their health around. They need all the support they can get.