Ever watch a round-up of animals in the west? Helicopters, wranglers, pilot horses, cowboys. All these outside forces being used to control and direct the movement (and destiny) of animals enjoying their freedom or a leisurely graze. Learning how to control metabolic syndrome is, albeit metaphorically, a lot like one of these round-ups.

The very nature of a syndrome lends itself to a sort of “herding” response. Metabolic syndrome isn’t a disease, but a collection of symptoms correlated with each other and with potential diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Having three or more of the following symptoms qualifies as metabolic syndrome:

  • abdominal obesity
  • high triglycerides
  • low HDL cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • high fasting blood glucose

Other risk factors include:

  • age
  • ethnicity
  • diabetes (especially gestational diabetes and a family history of type 2 diabetes)
  • other diseases (specifically non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome or sleep apnea)

While age, ethnicity and some diseases are out of your control, most of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome aren’t. And when devising a plan for how to control metabolic syndrome, starting where you do have control can corral most of the problem.

Instead of isolating each risk factor — “How do I lower my triglycerides?” “How do I raise my HDLs?” — go for the herd first. Most of the five identifying symptoms of metabolic syndrome are directly linked to being overweight or obese. By making healthy weight loss your focus, you will find the other risk factors start to fall off the list.

Until your lifestyle intercedes to reverse those symptoms, one means to control metabolic syndrome is through pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, there is no one magic pill for metabolic syndrome. There are, however, drugs to deal with the individual symptoms.

Statins help with high cholesterol. ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and other drugs help to lower blood pressure. And fibric acid derivatives, niacin and omega-3 fatty acids help to control elevated triglycerides.

Knowing how to control metabolic syndrome pharmaceutically, however, doesn’t take away the causative issues. And every medication comes with its own list of potential side-effects, allergies and drug interactions.

If you’re going to use medications to control the risk factors for metabolic syndrome, be careful not to become complacent. Medications should be a warning sign that you need to make lifestyle changes so your body can function healthily on its own merits.

Commit to a program that will help you make a shift in how to control metabolic syndrome. The following should be your focus, and a mentored program can help you achieve it:

  • lose weight
  • increase physical activity
  • eat a heart-healthy diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, unsaturated fats, fish, nuts and plenty of water)

Obviously the first goal is largely dependent on the second two. And those are both entirely within your control.

Physical activity doesn’t have to leave you wringing wet and panting after a two-hour workout. Just stop protecting your right to sit all the time and start enjoying your right to move! You were, after all, perfectly designed with movement in mind.

So, find activities you enjoy and do them. Start walking while you talk on the phone instead of sitting at your desk. Take the stairs. Dance when you get up in the morning. Park a little farther away from the building. Walk your dog. Walk a neighbor’s dog. Just. Move.

Nutrition, of course, is the component that often makes us want to throw in the towel. There’s so much to consider. There’s also — sigh — so much to give up.

But even that involves a shift in perspective. Sure, the first few days of eliminating the junk you’ve been using to fuel your body can be frustrating. You are, after all, standing against the tide of long-practiced habits.

Once you experience how fantastic your body can feel when it is being fueled with healthful, nutrient-supplying foods, however, you will instinctively learn the difference between cravings and hunger. You will even free up all that emotional time spent chasing down an answer to your cravings, as you will respond to what your body truly needs.

Now that you have some tips for how to control metabolic syndrome, the ball is in your court. The good news is: you can reverse metabolic syndrome. A smart, doable, support-based program of exercise and heart-healthy eating can set you up for a vital, energy-filled life.