- “It’s time to take my blood pressure pill.”
- “Better take my insulin before I eat.”
- “My doctor says I need medication for my high cholesterol.”
These are all common phrases that I’m sure you’ve either heard before or said yourself. It’s no surprise when 70% of Americans are on some sort of prescription drug.
I’m sure you’re saying, “Yes, of course I would!”
Nonetheless, millions choose their pills every single day. They choose to suppress their symptoms and never regain their health. Maybe taking the steps to resolve their health issues seem time-consuming or difficult. Whatever the reason may be, the truth is you are not bound to your illness and your pills! You have the power to take back your health!
The Deadly Trio
Behind the deadly trio of diseases: diabetes, heart disease and strokes is a group of risk factors that are entirely too common. So common, in fact, that 47 million Americans have not just one, but a combination of at least 3, of these risk factors! The collection of these risk factors is called metabolic syndrome. While metabolic syndrome is not a disease itself, it is a condition that can pose some serious dangers to your health.
To be diagnosed, you must have at least 3 out of the 5 specific risk factors. Read the criteria below to find out whether you, or someone you know, may have metabolic syndrome. Knowing the primary indicators gives you the power to avoid disease and live a long, happy, and healthy life!
Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome:
- Central or abdominal obesity (measuredbywaist circumference):
- Men: 40 inches or above
- Women: 35 inches or above
- Triglycerides greater than or equal to 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood
- HDL cholesterol:
- Men: Less than 40 mg/dL
- Women: Less than 50 mg/dL
- Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85
- Fasting glucose greater than or equal to 100
Some of you might need to look over your latest lab results to know your risk factors. Chances are if you have metabolic syndrome, then your doctor has voiced his concern. He may not have labeled you with metabolic syndrome, but it’s common knowledge in the medical community that a combination of these risks spells danger.
The good news is that you can wipe out your risks and eliminate metabolic syndrome in just three steps! You’re not doomed to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. Your health and your future are in your hands!
The Sweet Culprit
Developing metabolic syndrome results from poor choices, not genetics, 99% of the time. One of the most important choices we can make is what we eat. The most devastating food choice of all is sugar.
Consuming large amounts of sugar and carbohydrates destroys your health and acts like a slow acting poison. Over time, it breaks down your body’s systems by initiating unnatural processes.
Some of the most disturbing outcomes of sugar involve all 5 metabolic syndrome risk factors! The harmful effects of sugar include:
High Blood Sugar
Over-consumption of sugar and carbohydrates causes an increase in insulin. This overproduction of insulin leaves our cells in a non-responsive state, otherwise known as insulin resistance. Consistently high levels of insulin are associated with many harmful changes in the body long before manifesting as a disease, such as chronic inflammation and diabetes.
Sugars raise insulin levels, which raise triglycerides in the body. Triglycerides are then stored in your fat tissue for later energy use. However, some of these extra triglycerides end up in your arteries and can cling to your artery walls. This buildup, also referred to as plaque, can harden your artery walls and inhibit blood flow. Eventually, this can lead to serious complications, such as heart attack or stroke.
When you eat refined sugar, the pancreas starts to work overtime to pour out insulin. The dramatic increase in circulating insulin grabs the sugar and stores it as body fat, often in the liver. The side-effect of circulating excess insulin is that it causes the liver to actually manufacture more cholesterol.
High Blood Pressure
Eating sugars and high carbohydrate foods can create a stress response in the body. This stress response begins in the hypothalamus of the brain. The “stress” of sugar causes the brain to increase the heart rate and blood pressure. Daily consumption of sugar and high carbohydrate foods creates such a stress response in the body that chronic high blood pressure is a result.
This fat is accumulated around the abdomen. Sugar is empty calories that pulls minerals from the body during digestion. Sugar creates a hormone cascade when consumed that causes the body to crave more sugar, which increases caloric intake and leads to weight gain.
The most frightening aspect of sugar is how quickly it destroys the body. Studies have shown that sugar can cause these health issues in as few as 10 weeks!
This leads me to step one in beating metabolic syndrome.
Step #1: Reduced Carbohydrate Diet
I purposely call this the “reduced carb” diet rather than “low carb” diet for a reason. I believe low carb diets, like the Atkins Diet, are too extreme. However, our current high-sugar, high-carb diet is killing us. For years, our ancestors subsisted on what they hunted and gathered. Sugar- and carbohydrate-based meals were rarely eaten.
Sadly, in the past 20-30 years, our country has shifted from well-rounded meals to meals centered around carbohydrates. Grains and starches typically dominate the plate at dinnertime and soda replaces milk or water. A lot has changed over the decades, and not for the better.
Reducing your carbohydrates is simpler than you might think. I personally have taken huge strides in the past 10 years in reducing my carbohydrates. It takes an adjustment in both your body and mind in the beginning. But soon, your body won’t crave sugar or carbohydrates anymore!
Here are some simple tips for reducing your carbs:
- Fill your plate with an extra serving of vegetables, instead of a side of bread.
- Use large leaves of lettuce to wrap up your burger or deli meat instead of a bun.
- Skip dessert and grab a piece of fruit instead.
- Drink tea sweetened with stevia instead of soda. Better yet, drink water!
- Try spaghetti squash or shredded zucchini as a noodle substitute.
- Cut out wheat products and eat gluten-free grains like rice and quinoa in moderation.
I also highly recommend eliminating gluten from your diet. Gluten contains specific compounds, which increase hunger, block nutrient absorption, and cause inflammatory responses. As someone who was personally on the fence over the whole gluten-free trend, I took the plunge and I am so glad I did!
I have more energy, less sugar cravings, and no longer have the awful “wheat belly.” The only catch is to not replacing wheat with a bunch of gluten-free carbs. Just because it is gluten-free does not mean it is healthy.
Step #2 Exercise
We all know the benefits of regular exercise, yet so many of us just can’t bring ourselves to do it! Regular exercise reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. Exercise directly reduces the risk factors for metabolic syndrome by:
- Reducing stress, which can lower blood pressure
- Promotes weight loss
- Lowers blood sugar levels
A recent study asked people with metabolic syndrome to exercise for 30 minutes a day. The exercise was so effective that nearly half of the participants no longer had metabolic syndrome risk factors by the end of the study! Even something as simple as a brisk walk for 30 minutes once a day, five days per week can make such a dramatic impact on your health!
I personally have been using the workouts on the website http://neilarey.com. These workouts are fun, only 20-30 minutes in length and can be done at home in your living room!
If you are overwhelmed by the idea of beginning an exercise regimen or don’t know where to start, then begin with 10 minutes a day of moderate exercise. If your health prevents you from participating in vigorous physical activity, then do not get discouraged. While lower levels of activity might not produce the same results as quickly, they will help you move in the right direction.
Making the time to perform these workouts has reduced my stress levels and kept me strong and healthy! I heartily recommend them as an ongoing, safe and rewarding part of your life.
Step #3 The Right Supplements
As I mentioned earlier, many people look to a pill alone to fix all their problems. Unfortunately, there is no pill that will make you healthy. You must put in the effort to eat right and exercise. There really is no getting around that. However, taking supplements can synergistically work with a diet and exercise regime to bring about even more dramatic results!
There are some fantastic herbs, vitamins, and natural supplements that can aid in balancing your blood sugar, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowering your blood pressure. Below are some of the best supplements for preventing metabolic syndrome. These are safe and effective supplements, which, unlike pharmaceutical drugs, are free from dangerous side effects.
Taking just 1 gram of fish oil a day can help boost healthy HDL cholesterol levels, while lowering the artery clogging LDL cholesterol. Fish oil is a foundational supplement that should be taken by people of all ages because of its positive effects on the body. Fish oil also:
- Decreases inflammation throughout the body
- Boosts brain function
- Lowers stroke risk
- And lowers blood pressure
Garlic contains natural ACE reducing properties. “ACE” or the ngiotensin-converting enzyme, indirectly constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure. Most blood pressure medications are formulated as ACE inhibitors. Garlic naturally inhibits ACE, which makes it effective in lower blood pressure in those with hypertension. Garlic also:
- Lowers cholesterol and triglycerides
- Prevents blood clots
- Fights infections
You can eat a clove of garlic a day or take 2 of the odor-free capsule form if you prefer.
This essential mineral is critical for the body, yet many people don’t get adequate amounts of magnesium from the foods they eat. Supplementing with magnesium can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease tachycardia and arrhythmias
- Lower LDL cholesterol levels
A typical daily dosage is 500-1000 mg a day
This delicious spice can be a life-changing supplement for controlling blood sugar levels. Cinnamon has antioxidant compounds, which have natural insulin-like qualities.
In a London study, two grams of cinnamon a day had a greater effect on blood glucose levels than pharmaceutical blood sugar lowering drugs!
Cinnamon also reduces inflammation and lowers cholesterol levels. To experience cinnamon’s health benefits, take 1-2 grams per day in capsule form.
Taking pharmaceutical drugs to control your symptoms is not the ideal path towards holistic health and wellness. Instead, making lifestyle changes in your diet and exercise give you the ability to regain your health. These changes will prevent the deadly diseases that can occur as a result of metabolic syndrome.
Adopting a healthy diet by reducing your carbohydrates and sugars, exercising daily, and incorporating health-promoting supplements can evoke real results. These results can be the difference between a long vibrant life and a life interrupted with illness and disease. The choice is yours!
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Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.com/ for contact info.