With apologies to comedian Jeff Foxworthy of "You Might be a Redneck" fame, I offer the following criteria for developing metabolic syndrome.
If you crave desserts and snacks ...
If you go to the bathroom more frequently than you used to ...
If you find that you are thirstier than your companions ...
If you salivate when I mention the word cupcake ...
If you are a man and your waist is greater than 40 inches ...
If you are a women and your waist is greater than 35 inches ...
If your blood pressure is higher than 130/90 or you take blood pressure medications ...
If your cholesterol is more than 200 ...
If your fasting blood sugar is more than 100 ... You might have metabolic syndrome.
Although Foxworthy's list of redneck criteria brings laughs to his audience, there is nothing humorous about the criteria for metabolic syndrome.
Unfortunately, metabolic syndrome is a forerunner of several serious health conditions.
Metabolic syndrome is a description of a set of conditions that when combined can lead to serious health challenges such as heart disease, stroke and Type II diabetes.
Note that just having one or two of the criteria listed above does not equate to having metabolic syndrome.
However, if any of the above applies to you, it is wise to work with your doctor to assess your risk.
Metabolic syndrome refers to the collective conditions of elevated blood cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and insulin resistance or elevated blood sugar.
If you fall into that category, you are not alone. In fact this set of condition is affecting more people in our culture daily. An estimated 25 percent of Americans have metabolic syndrome.
As a society, we are headed for a health care disaster. As the number of people affected by these types of conditions continues to balloon, the impact on our country's strained health care system is growing as fast as our collective waistlines.
If you or someone you know is borderline or already fitting the description of metabolic syndrome, take heart; in most cases, it is reversible.
Even in cases where the indicators are moderate to severe, complete reversal of the syndrome is often possible.
In order to reverse the condition, it is usually necessary to lose weight, change eating habits and modify activity habits.
Notice that I did not include medications in that list?
In some cases medication will be necessary, but for many people, it may be possible to take positive steps in lifestyle that are sufficient to turn their life around.
I recently completed two distance learning modules hosted by Harvard University School of Medicine focused on lifestyle medicine.
Lifestyle medicine is the field of health care that focuses on working with patients to modify their habits and behaviors in a positive way to effectively prevent or resolve health problems.
Quite frankly, this approach is not as commonly practiced in most doctors' offices as the pharmaceutical approach. There are two primary reasons for this imbalance. The first lies with the doctor and the second with the patient.
Most doctors have not taken courses such as the Harvard course I mentioned, which trains them in ways to successfully guide patients through difficult life changes. It is not a simple matter to coach multiple patients with a very diverse set of backgrounds, educational levels, abilities and willingness to change their habits.
Although most physicians have had some training in patient counseling, helping patients successfully turn their lives around often requires advanced counseling skills.
There is also the very real issue that physicians are typically pressed for time already. It takes only a couple of minutes to write a prescription.
It takes multiple prolonged visits with each patient to coach them through lifestyle changes.
Even if health care providers were perfectly trained and had ample time available to provide these services, in many cases it would not matter because patients often are not sufficiently motivated to work with their doctor to accomplish successful lifestyle changes. Many patients don't want to change. They just want their pills.
If you are interested in taking the simple steps necessary to reverse metabolic syndrome, realize that you can be successful if you follow the right steps.