Reduce your cardiometabolic risk
With the raging COVID-19 epidemic on everyone’s minds and lips, other health issues can take a back seat. But metabolic syndrome, characterised by abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure, has been called a “silent epidemic.” In some places, it’s estimated to have a prevalence as high as one in three or one in four adults.
The syndrome itself is a cluster of cardiometabolic risk factors. These increase the risk of a person developing chronic diseases including cancer, strokes, diabetes, and heart disease. The cause of metabolic syndrome is unknown, but it is closely linked with both insulin resistance and obesity, particularly extra fat deposits around the waist. These two factors, in turn, are closely linked to each other.
It’s hard to pin down definitions, parameters, and causes of health conditions of this nature. However, the connection between obesity (and its common side effects) and increased cardiometabolic risk is quite clear. And for most people, the exact cause is less important than the proven preventative measures that can be taken.
Here are some ways to cut down on the risk of developing those chronic diseases mentioned above. The varied and nuanced medical communications from different medical agencies can be overwhelming—these tips are simple lifestyle changes attainable for most people.
1. Get moving.
Exercise is proven to improve insulin sensitivity, contribute towards weight loss, and decrease risk factors for those with metabolic syndrome or those hoping to avoid it. If you try one thing to treat or prevent metabolic syndrome and the associated conditions, make it exercise.
Increasing your physical activity need not mean a full schedule of daily weightlifting and running. 30-minute brisk walks, five times a week, can have fantastic benefits. Swimming is a great low-impact alternative, and any cardio activity like dancing, rowing, or cycling is fantastic. Do what you enjoy and what is accessible to you.
2. Quit smoking.
Smoking is shown to increase a person’s risk of heart disease, adding to the negative effects of metabolic syndrome. It’s also highly addictive—which means that quitting is a big and difficult thing to achieve.
If you’re trying to quit, consult your doctor. Tools available include patches, gum, programs, support groups, and more. A gradual approach that works is better than a cold turkey approach which does not!
3. Manage stress.
Stress, anger, emotional upset, and other types of psychological distress cause a spike in the cortisol hormone. And while this can be protective in the short term, it is harmful when the cortisol spike lasts for an extended period.
Reducing your stress wherever possible can cut down your cardiometabolic risk factors and prevent metabolic syndrome. Helpful practices and programs include meditation, counselling, and breathing techniques. Exercise also helps towards stress reduction.
4. Make specific diet changes
While reduction of excess weight can help with prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome, weight alone is not the most important factor. Dietary changes should be aimed at attaining a healthy weight but also at heart-healthy nutrition to manage blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Increase the percentage of your food intake that is high in fibre. High-fibre foods include whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
- Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (olive and canola oils, olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, fatty fish) over saturated fats and trans fats which are found in fried food, common snacks, dairy, and meat.
- Make sure your fruit and vegetables are all the colours of the rainbow. The colour of produce is often an indication of the nutrients it contains. Eating a variety of colours ensures you are getting a variety of the nutrients your body requires to function.
- Cut down on meat intake. As mentioned above, animal products often include both cholesterol and saturated fat. They are fine as part of a balanced diet, but balance is key. Use meat sparingly for flavour rather than bulk and eat several vegetarian meals per week if possible.
Making these four changes to your lifestyle can help you to ward off the very common condition that is metabolic syndrome, reducing your risk of nasty chronic conditions that can have a profound adverse effect on your life and health.
For more precise and personalised information about metabolic syndrome and obesity, please consult a healthcare professional.