Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors -- unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess belly fat -- that may raise your risks of serious illness, such as diabetes, and blood vessel and heart disease.
If you've been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome -- or are worried you might have it -- here are some questions to ask your doctor. Print them out before your next appointment.
Do I have any metabolic syndrome risk factors?
Will I need medicine to...
Instead, treatment is focused on simply tackling each risk factor. The goal is to cut your odds of blood vessel and heart disease, as well as diabetes.
In most cases, the best treatment for metabolic syndrome rests with you. Changes to your behavior -- such as eating healthier and getting more exercise -- are the first things your doctor will suggest.
Unhealthy habits may have led you into this trouble. But by changing your ways, you may be able to completely negate your risk factors.
Lower Your Metabolic Syndrome Risk With Lifestyle Changes
Experts say that changing your lifestyle is the main treatment for metabolic syndrome.
Get some exercise. Exercise is a great way to lose weight. That's key if you're heavy. But don't get down if the scale isn't showing progress. Even if you don't lose a single pound, exercise can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and improve insulin resistance.
If you're out of shape, start slowly. Try walking more. Work more physical activity into your day. When you're on foot, allow a little extra time to take the scenic route to get some extra steps. To keep track, buy a pedometer or "step counter."
Ideally, you should increase your physical activity until you're doing it on most days of the week. But don't get too ambitious. If you try a workout regime that's too tough, you may just give up. You need to find a level of exercise that fits with your personality.
Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet can improve your cholesterol, insulin resistance, and blood pressure -- even if your weight stays the same.
Ask your doctor or registered dietitian about what sort of diet you should eat. People who have heart disease or diabetes may need to have special meal plans. In general, a diet that's low in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt and high in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, beans, low fat dairy, and whole grains has been shown to help people with high blood pressure and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Many doctors suggest a "Mediterranean" diet or the DASH diet[I1] . These meal plans emphasizes "good" fats (like the monounsaturated fat in olive oil) and a balance of carbohydrates and proteins.
Lose some weight. Obviously, this is often a byproduct of exercising and eating well. But it's a key goal in itself if you're overweight or obese. Weight loss can improve every aspect of metabolic syndrome.
If you smoke, quit. It's not a risk factor for metabolic syndrome itself. But smoking greatly increases your risk of blood vessel and heart disease.