A syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms that are correlated with each other and, often, with a specific disease. The word derives from the Greek σύνδρομον, meaning “concurrence”.- From Wikipedia
Syndrome X, now known as Metabolic Syndrome, is a cluster of at least three of five medical conditions- high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, belly fat, or low HDL cholesterol. Approximately 34%, or 47 million Americans have Syndrome X currently, and many are in the process of falling victim to it. The syndrome appears to run in families, and is more common in African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and is a risk factor in heart disease, all cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, premature death, and diminished quality of life. Not all doctors are comfortable with the term, as it is not a single condition but a syndrome, a grouping of risk factors. What all doctors do agree on is that it is a killer disease and that there is a lot that we can do to prevent it from spreading and killing us.
According to the American Heart Association, there are five risk factors associated with Syndrome X, AKA metabolic syndrome:
1. A waist size of over 40 inches for a male, and 35 inches or more for a female. In addition, it is a matter of how body fat is stored in a person’s core. Males with an “apple” shaped abdomen are at greater risk, as are women with a “pear” shaped core.
2. High triglycerides. This is the “bad cholesterol” that resides in your bloodstream to provide your body with energy. Too much of it clogs arteries leading to cardiovascular diseases. A triglyceride rate of 150mg or greater puts you at risk.
3. Low “Good Cholesterol,” or HDL. For men this is less than 40mg and four women less than 50mg. It is recommended that all Americans have a lipid profile done every five years to determine these numbers. If you are in a high risk category, African-American, Native American, Asian, it makes sense to have them done more frequently. Discuss with your doctor how often to have these tests done.
4. High blood pressure. Having blood pressure of over 135/85 places you at risk. Either of these numbers being elevated is a red flag. Blood pressure can be monitored quite easily using a home monitor or sticking your arm in one of those contraptions that are probably in the corner of your neighborhood pharmacy.
5. High blood sugar levels. A blood sugar level of over 100 puts you in a high risk category, with a number of 100 to 125 putting you in “pre-diabetic” category. 79 million Americans are currently prediabetic, and without some lifestyle changes run the risk of developing type II or “adult onset diabetes.”
To be diagnosed with Syndrome X, you must have three of these five risk factors, but certainly taking action on any one of these is in your best interest.
How can syndrome X be prevented? The good news is that it is not that difficult. The bad news is that, for some people, it is difficult to prevent because it requires some effort and lifestyle changes. Syndrome X is a group of diseases exacerbated by modern lifestyle and reliance upon technology. Experts say that you prevent metabolic syndrome essentially the same way that you would treat it with the exception of medications. The following will lifestyle changes are the safest way to prevent becoming a victim of Syndrome X:
⦁ Exercise. Most any kind of physical activity will do, but something that works to keep your body moving and your weight at a reasonable level. The American Heart Association recommends building up to between 30 and 60 minutes per day of moderate physical activity. Keep in mind that the activity does not have to be done all at one time but can be broken up into shorter bouts. The key is consistency. While you may opt for longer sessions occasionally, such as gym workouts or weight training three times per week, it is more important that you do something every day. It may be as simple as parking your car a little farther from your destination, walking your dog a few more times a week, or some floor exercises while watching TV.
⦁ Cleanup your diet. No mystery with this one. Eat more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and all that stuff that you know is good for you. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you which foods to avoid, but generally anything that is processed or packaged should be avoided at all costs. Seek to find healthier alternatives to that sweet tooth and your appetite for junk food. Go light on fruit juices, as they are hidden sources of sugar. Eating fruit in its natural state is far better than filling up on juices.
⦁ Lose some weight. Again not a shocking revelation that being overweight contributes to Syndrome X. Weighing yourself at least 2 to 3 times per week and putting a tape measure to your waist occasionally may be damaging to your ego, but it just may prevent you from falling victim to Syndrome X. Facing those numbers can be frightening, but denial of these numbers can literally be fatal.
⦁ If you are a smoker, quit. If you’ve tried and failed multiple times, contact your physician and quit immediately. That “I’ve cut down” attitude is not helping anything. Consider that “cigarette or two” you smoke each day to be similar to playing Russian roulette with a pistol with a “bullet or two” in the chamber. Eventually, it’s going to kill you.
⦁ Develop a working relationship with your primary care physician. Even if you don’t feel you are at risk for developing Syndrome X, your doctor should be familiar with you and your unique medical needs. Even if you are in good condition, get a physical when it is recommended. The worst that can happen is your doctor gives you a pat on the back, you feel better, and you leave the office with a little ego boost. It’s a good idea to look under the hood once in a while.
⦁ Take medications if they are prescribed for you. Medications for blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol are critical if you are in a high-risk category or early stages of Syndrome X. If your numbers improve, don’t stop taking your medication. Too many people rationalize that, “I’m doing well, my numbers are good, so I don’t need this medication any longer.” The reality is that your numbers are good because you are taking that medication. It should be evidence to you that the regimen you are on is working.
Syndrome X is a not so silent killer that can be prevented in most cases. Modern medical science and living an old school lifestyle can keep even those in high-risk categories alive and well over a longer period of time. The recommended lifestyle changes here are not too big a sacrifice, and may even make your life more enjoyable. Don’t fall victim to Syndrome X!
“Warning: Before beginning an program of physical inactivity, consult your doctor. Sedentary living is abnormal and dangerous to your health.”- Frank Forencich, Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement
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