“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That timeless adage applies to every corner of life, including health. But what if you missed the prevention train and are now dealing with serious health issues? If you are among the 47 million people with metabolic syndrome, you may wonder if beating metabolic syndrome is even possible.
The name “metabolic syndrome” can be a little misleading. It doesn’t refer to a specific condition, but to a group of specific risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It is defined as three or more of the following risk factors occurring together:
- High blood pressure
- Obesity, especially excess body fat around the middle
- High LDL cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- High fasting blood sugar
The fact that almost one in four people — and 40% of people over 60 — meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome should put everyone on alert. There’s little chance of beating metabolic syndrome if you don’t know what to look for and don’t stay abreast of your health with your doctor.
As you age, your chances of acquiring metabolic syndrome increase. And given that most of the risk factors can’t be felt, you should really keep an eye on your weight. It’s linked to all the other risk factors and is the one you can actually see and measure on your own.
Fortunately, metabolic syndrome is preventable and even beatable. Here are 7 keys for preventing and beating metabolic syndrome.
- Get real about your weight.
It’s not easy to face up to being overweight. No one gets that way overnight. And the thought of doing something about it can bring up a lot of memories, emotional issues and fear of the effort that lies ahead.
But the scale and tape measure are actually your friends in beating metabolic syndrome. Keep a dedicated journal or notebook for your health journey, and start by stepping on the scale and measuring around your belly at your belly button. Then go here to see where your numbers fall in terms of being healthy or at risk.
- Clean out your pantry and fridge.
A handful of food categories should be tossed from the get-go:
- Fake and processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Diet sodas (and sodas in general)
- Foods with trans fats (think of fast food and all those chewy baked goods with a convenient-store shelf life of “forever”)
- Alcohol doesn’t need to be tossed, but should be used in moderation. Ideally you should avoid it while you get through the initial stages of cleansing your body and feeding it only what nourishes it.
- Restock your pantry and fridge.
If you fill your fridge with healthful foods, you will eat healthful foods. Simple. And you will start to learn that true hunger is your body’s way of asking for the nutrients it needs. Cravings, on the other hand, are connected to emotions, not health. That’s why people who nourish their bodies with healthful foods are able to eat to satiety without having cravings or gaining weight.
Foods that should take up residence in your kitchen include:
- Fish and omega-3 foods (salmon isn’t the only food rich in omega-3’s — walnuts and flaxseeds are great sources, too)
- Lean, hormone-free protein like grass-fed beef
- Whole grains and high-fiber foods
- Legumes and beans, which are loaded with fiber and plant-based proteins
You may be surprised how dehydrated your body is when you start replacing your regular beverage choices with water. In addition to the laundry list of alcohol’s negative effects on your body, it’s very dehydrating. Diet sodas are also dehydrating because of the diuretic effect of their caffeine.
Drink at least 16 oz. of water when you wake up in the morning and get used to drinking throughout the day, especially before eating. Advice runs from ½ to ⅔ your body weight in ounces of water, with more if you are exercising or sweating a lot.
The benefits of water will surprise you!
- Get moving!
Exercise should be a daily part of your life. If it’s not, start walking. Get a FitBit or pedometer and monitor your steps until you have some reliable treks you enjoy walking. If you are already exercising, it may be time to intensify your effort. Thirty minutes of moderately vigorous exercise per week is a good baseline. And add in some resistance training to preserve both bone and muscle.
- Stop smoking. Just. Stop.
- Get healthy together.
There’s nothing like having accountability in the form of a non-judgmental support system.
Beating metabolic syndrome is about so much more than just trimming down to look good. It’s a complex effort because the alternative is complex…and dangerous.
Figuring out how to change all your unhealthy lifestyle habits can be overwhelming. But having the guidance of a health professional who can help you embrace the journey can make all the difference in your success.
Clients of the SprintSet Energizing Weight Loss System, for example, have everything they need in one place: nutritional and exercise guidance, emotional support — even an online community with a common goal.
Unlike many chronic diseases, metabolic syndrome is something largely within your control. Interestingly, preventing and beating metabolic syndrome have the same core lifestyle choices. Whether you have been lucky so far or know you are at risk for serious disease, you hold the key to both sustained and renewed health.