PT eDigest

Moving Past Metabolic Syndrome

Being overweight can result from overeating or eating fattening foods, or it can be caused by a condition called metabolic syndrome, a combination of disorders that, when occurring together, increases the risk of coronary heart disease and other diseases related to plaque buildups in artery walls (e.g., stroke and peripheral vascular disease) and type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that over 50 million Americans have it.

A person has metabolic syndrome if he or she has at least three of the following:

  • high blood pressure (130/85 mm Hg or higher)
  • abdominal obesity (a waistline of 35 inches or more for women, 40 inches or more for men)
  • elevated levels of glucose in the blood after fasting (100 mg per deciliter [dL] or higher)
  • high triglyceride levels (150 mg/dL or higher)
  • low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels (for women, less than 50 mg/dL; for men, less than 40 mg/dL)

Insulin resistance is likely to be present—or to develop—if at least three of these conditions exist. Obesity is a primary reason that insulin may have difficulty moving sugar (glucose) from the blood into cells, where it is used as energy. The resulting higher blood sugar levels can develop into type 2 diabetes.

Factors that increase your metabolic syndrome risk include age (50-plus years), stress, smoking, heavy alcohol use, family history of diabetes and a high-fat diet. Exercise and diet changes can improve any of these markers, reducing the chance of diabetes. With diet modification and relaxation strategies, for instance, your blood pressure may be reduced from 140/80 to 130/75 over the course of several weeks. A walking and gentle strength-training program, working up from 15 minutes a day the first week to 30 minutes a day by the fourth week, may cut your waistline by an inch in a month.

Remember: What matters are only your own markers for gradually increasing your health and fitness levels. We can provide an individualized exercise program to help you attain these goals and improve your overall health.