Steer clear of major diseases by curbing your metabolic syndrome risk factor.
An eight-year study conducted by researchers found that 34 percent of Americans have metabolic syndrome, with women between the ages of 20 and 39 experiencing the most dramatic increases in the condition over the last few years.
You know that staying fit takes some work. Just like your bangs, your closet and your car, a healthy and strong body requires regular maintenance. Keeping your body in top shape not only helps you accomplish your fitness goals at the gym, but it could also help you steer clear of metabolic syndrome, a growing health condition that’s impacting American women.
While technically not a “disease” in itself, metabolic syndrome is a condition marked by the presences of a cluster of risk factors that could mean trouble for your health. These factors include having a large waistline, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and high triglycerides (a form of blood fat). Obviously, having any of these risk factors isn’t good for your health. But when a few of them are combined, it can contribute to serious disease.
“Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of abnormalities that increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes”.
The good news is that you can steer clear of metabolic syndrome by living an active lifestyle and limiting your individual risk factors. By tuning up your health, just like you would a car, you can reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and keep your body as its best.
Bonus tip: Remember to get your body moving, stretching and strengthening. Daily exercise is your number-one tool for best health.
Keep your belly fit
Obesity is linked to a higher likelihood of developing all of the metabolic syndrome risk factors, but increasingly, research is showing that belly fat specifically is one of the biggest risk factor for metabolic syndrome. Foe women, a waist circumference over 35 inches signifies trouble, so keep your belly tight with these fit strategies:
- Add 10 percent more weight to your strength-training routine: A recent study on obese women found that resistance training, combined with caloric restriction, was more effective than cutting calories alone in reducing visceral fat (the deepest layer of fat on your body). Before you increase the amount of weight you lift, make sure you can complete an entire set at your current weight with proper form.
- Every five minutes, add a two-minute high-intensity interval to your cardio routine: “Moderate activity will have a limited benefit”. Plus, intervals are a fabulous way to up your calorie and fat burn.
- Skip the sit-ups. Crunches alone don’t get rid of abdominal fat. Strong, sexy abs are made mostly in the kitchen-a clean diet accounts for 80 percent of fat loss. But when you’re on the go, you can reach the deeper muscles of your abdominal simply by drawing in your belly button-try it while standing in line or sitting at work.
- Try cooking with safflower oil. A study found that the oil (which can be used for sautéing veggies!) is linked to reduced abdominal fat and improved cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and inflammation. Use it to sautee zucchini, mushrooms and bell peppers for your morning omelet.
- Go for seven hours of sleep per night. People under the age of 40 who slept less than that amount every night, showed a 32-percent gain in visceral fat.
Control your blood pressure
Your blood pressure is an important factor is staying healthy and avoiding metabolic syndrome. While the American Heart Association considers optimal levels to be anything below 120 over 80, it’s not uncommon for active women’s numbers to be even lower. But if they get too high? If your number is 130 over 85 mm Hg or more, it could signal trouble and may lead to a spike in your insulin levels. In turn, the increased insulin levels could cause the loss of magnesium and the retention of sodium in your body, which can increase your blood pressure even further. Stop the cycle with these tips.
- Take the salt-shaker off the table. “This will help you keep your sodium intake to less than one and a half grams per day.” A diet low in sodium helps prevent blood pressure from rising. Try it!
- Take a nap, if you can. A new study found that those who slept 45 minutes in the daytime had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t. Fit a nap in tomorrow.
- Add another workout to your week. The more active you are, the more likely you are to reduce high blood pressure resulting from a high-salt diet, found a study presented at a recent American Heart Association meetings.
Keep your blood sugar balanced
Your body’s main source of energy is glucose, or blood sugar, which your body creates by breaking down the food you eat. But when glucose gets diverted from normal cellular function and builds up in the blood, it can lead to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Keep your blood sugar levels stable with these guidelines:
- Program your gym date and time into your smart phone. Exercising at the same time each day has been shown to help pre-diabetic and diabetic patients control their blood sugar. Working out consistently, combining cardio and weight training, makes the body more sensitive to the insulin it produces, even if you don’t have metabolic syndrome or diabetes. Increased insulin sensitivity means better blood sugar management.
- Store your big plates on a hard-to reach shelf and save them for special occasions. Replace them with smaller, fun, colorful plates that you can find at a flea market or antique shop for day-to-day use. Smaller, more frequent meals of whole grains, fruits and vegetable can help keep your blood sugar balanced by limiting the spikes that can come from eating processed foods.
Manage your triglycerides
Triglycerides are a form of blood fat in your body. A high level of triglycerides thickens your blood, which increases the likelihood of clotting and blockage, and can eventually lead to health complications such as a heart attack or stroke. Excess triglycerides (greater than 150 mg/dL) may also be a signal of metabolic syndrome. Luckily, your lifestyle choices have an impact, which means that you can control your numbers. Here’s how to keep your triglycerides below 150 during your next blood tests:
- Work out before the girls’ night out: We’re all going to splurge on nachos at some point. But simply exercising before the indulgence can help reduce the negative impact on your bloodstream. Hitting the gym before cheat meal can help reduce the amount of lipids in your blood because exercise alters the signals your body sends after consumption fatty foods.
- Offer to be the designated driver. Even small amounts of alcohol can elevate your triglyceride levels.
- Answer only the emails you must. For the others, stand up and go talk to your colleague instead (and don’t text her the reply, either!). A new study found that even if you work out on a regular basis, sitting all day at work can result in higher triglycerides levels and other risk factors for heart disease. Bonus: In the same study, those who took the most work breaks also had the smallest waists. So get moving in between all those hours spent sitting on your butt. Just try to make them productive breaks!
Boost Your Good Cholesterol
If you want to stay healthy, it’s not enough to keep your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels low (these are the ones that invade your blood vessels and cause plaque build-up that can lead to heart disease and stroke). You also need a high level of “good” HDL cholesterol, which cleanses your artery walls of bad cholesterol, shuttling it out and preventing it from clogging your bloodstream, thus reducing your risk for heart disease. Ideally, your HDL levels should be 50 mg/dL or higher. Here’s how you can boost your levels.
- Top your salad with sunflower and a couple of tablespoons of chopped avocado instead of the processed, unhealthy croutons and cheese. According to a new Canadian study, monounsaturated fats (which are found in foods such as nuts, seeds, oils and avocado) can up your HDL levels, even when you’re already following a diet designed to reduce your LDL cholesterol levels. So don’t rule out all fats as a dieter’s enemy. The key is to focus on eating the right kinds!
- Set a weight-loss goal of six pounds. Losing that amount can raise your HDL levels by one mg/dL. With consistent clean eating and exercise, you can safely lose two pounds per week, so a six-pound goal isn’t that far out of reach. Stick with it!
Check Your Numbers
To steer clean of metabolic syndrome, keeps tab on these important digits.
Ask your doctor to run tests to determine if you have these risk factors:
- Blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher. Your blood pressure will be checked using a blood pressure monitor (it will most often be a cuff).
- HDL cholesterol of less than 50 mg/dL. Your cholesterol levels are checked during a fasted blood test administered by your physician.
- Fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or higher. A fasting blood test is used to check your levels.
- Triglycerides of 150 mg/dL. Your levels are checked during a fasted blood tests.
And use a tape measure to determine if you have:
- A waist circumference of 35 inches or more.
Having three or more of these risk factors may indicate metabolic syndrome.