Your Life and Health – Metabolic Syndrome

Four of our biggest diseases—and our biggest killers—are the so called lifestyle diseases: obesity, heart disease, high blood-pressure, and type 2 diabetes. For years, doctors recognized that these diseases share many risk factors and even causes. Some even began to suspect that these diseases were in fact symptoms of a larger problem.

In 1988, Gerald Reaven, a researcher at Stanford University suggested that these lifestyle diseases were actually various manifestations of what he called Syndrome X.  He attributed everything to a root cause: elevated blood insulin levels and insulin resistance. His theories have since been well studied in medical literature. Today, syndrome X is known as metabolic syndrome.

Although metabolic syndrome continues to spread, we have the knowledge to stop it. It boils down to this: too much input and not enough output.  More time at the table, than time with our walking shoes on. You know what I’m saying?

Not only the amount of food we are eating, but the type of food we’re choosing to eat is harming us. Along with reducing quantity, we need to focus on the quality of our calories.

Unprocessed, nutrient-dense food, low in fat and sugar, but high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless. Not only can these types of food be delicious, but they’ll satisfy you longer, and you’ll feel full sooner, meaning you’ll eat less as a result.

Vegan and vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, because they place a strong focus on plant foods. In contrast, research has repeatedly shown that the consumption of animal products increases the risk of many diseases, including metabolic syndrome. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts are the fuels that our bodies were designed to use. Is it any wonder that they all reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome?

Besides the energy we put into our bodies, we need to focus on our output. You may have heard it a million times, but exercise is good for you. Besides burning off the extra calories we may have consumed, exercise helps combat disease.

When we choose to exercise and live active lifestyles, our bodies naturally become more responsive to insulin. Exercise also helps us lose weight. These two things combined mean that regular exercise is a very powerful means of fighting metabolic syndrome.

If you have metabolic syndrome, or are at risk of developing it, don’t wait to start treating it. The lifestyle changes you make will have a tremendous benefit. You’ll feel better and be healthier and happier as a result.

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Jon Ewald, MD

Jon Ewald grew up in Minnesota and has a love for the outdoors. He obtained his medical degree at Loma Linda University, graduating in 2020. He is currently completing his residency in Radiology at University of Pittsburgh.

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