One of the worst parts of my job is delivering bad news to a patient. Usually, when I give a patient a diagnosis of heart disease or diabetes, it comes as a blow. That’s expected, but often it comes as a surprise, too.
This is frustrating. The danger signs have been there, I’ve discussed them with the patient, and I’ve underscored the importance of making lifestyle changes. But until that moment when the actual diagnosis comes back, so many patients just don’t think it will happen to them.
Many of these patients were first diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X. This condition puts you at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, your health is in danger. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is still time to prevent heart disease or diabetes from gaining a foothold in your body.
Think of metabolic syndrome as a detour sign for your health. If you keep going the way you have been going, you’re likely to end up a wreck. But if you heed the warning signs, you can get your health safely back on track.
Let’s take a closer look at metabolic syndrome and what it means.
Metabolic Syndrome X… the Real Deal
Metabolic syndrome is a useful way to identify people who are at high risk of dangerous diseases. It also gives doctors a way to emphasize the importance of making lifestyle changes to patients whose cardiovascular health is less than it should be.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that includes high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high levels of fat around the abdomen.
If you have any three of these risk factors in combination, then you have metabolic syndrome. The time to start making changes is now, before you develop full-blown heart disease or diabetes. Improving your health will be much easier if you start sooner rather than later.
What to do if You Have Metabolic Syndrome
When you are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you can take three primary steps to immediately improve your health and prevent disease.
First, if you haven’t already taken steps toward healthier eating, do so now. Healthy eating is really very simple. When choosing meats make sure you select lean cuts of meat that are labeled hormone and antibiotic free. Second, you don’t have to stop eating fat. In fact, good fats like olive oil and nut oils will help your heart.
Secondly, it’s not necessary to totally cut out sweets from your diet. Just think of them as a special indulgence, and enjoy them on occasion. Boost your fruit and vegetable intake and your fiber intake and you’ve got a heart-healthy diet that’s tasty, too.
Your next step is to make time to workout. My patients have the most success when they choose activities they enjoy. Then it feels less like work and more like play. I had one patient who loved hiking. I told him to schedule in a hike on the weekends every other week and then walk around his neighborhood to prepare. The hike was something he looked forward to, and so walking to get ready was something he wanted to make time for.
Finally, you can support your cardiovascular health with two important supplements: coenzyme Q10 and fish oil. Coenzyme Q10 helps your heart muscle to function better and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil support overall heart health. If you have metabolic syndrome, I recommend you choose a supplement that contains at least 100 mg of CoQ10 and 1000 mg of fish oil. The best fish oil supplements contain DHA and EPA omega-3s.
To support insulin sensitivity, which will help to regulate your blood sugar, take a supplement with fenugreek. Taking fenugreek daily helps your body to control blood sugar and improves the action of insulin.1 It’s a great help to my patients with metabolic syndrome. I recommend 500 mg a day.
A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is something you should take very seriously. By making appropriate lifestyle changes as soon as you are diagnosed, you can save yourself from a great deal of suffering later in life.
1 Gupta A, et al. “Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seeds on glycaemic control and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a double blind placebo controlled study,” J Assoc Physicians India 2001; 49: 1057-61