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  • Dr. Susan

3 Steps to Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

Cardiovascular disease is a group of symptoms, much how we talked about IBS, irritable-bowel-syndrome, being a group of very common digestive symptoms CVD or cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that includes heart disease, stroke and blood vessel disease.

Heart disease is a subset of cardiovascular disease which addresses the heart’s function and structure. This would include blockages of the coronary (heart) blood vessels, issues with the valves of the heart that separate the atria (top chambers of the heart) and the ventricles (the more muscular pumping chambers of the heart) and also any arrythmias of the heart, think of arrythmias of misfiring of the heart.

I prefer to use the terminology and we’ll discuss Metabolic and Cardiometabolic Syndromes. Cardiometabolic syndrome in my opinion is more descriptive of the process of how cardiovascular disease and heart disease develop.

In discussing cardiometabolic health we can more clearly make the connection between lifestyle factors and the development of heart and cardiovascular disease. We can start to make the connection between cardiac symptoms like heart attack, stroke, angina, and metabolic issues like insulin resistance, diabetes, belly fat, high cholesterol, that occur together and actually increase the risk for a future cardiac event or stroke.

While the name may be different the causes and devastating effects continue. I believe all of us in science and health care need to do a better job of discussing with their clients the development of these lifestyle risk factors to be able to motivate and to make the connection between food choices, exercise, stress and the downright scary conditions like heart attack and stroke.

To kick off our discussion about cardiometabolic syndrome, it is important that we are all on the same page when it comes to understanding the outcomes of this condition.

According to Medical News Today, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and also the leading cause of death worldwide.

Cardiometabolic disease is common after the age of fifty and on into older generations. There are other other names used for cardiometabolic diseases such as are cardiometabolic syndrome (CMS), metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, syndrome X, or beer belly syndrome.

Metabolic Syndrome is a collection of symptoms which include:

1. abdominal obesity (waistline 40 inches or more in men, 35 inches or more in women)

2. high triglycerides

3. low “good” HDL cholesterol

4. high blood pressure (hypertension)

Please take note that high blood pressure is a major contributor to increased risk for cardiometabolic syndrome.

Is Your Heart Safe?

Often you might not realize that the symptoms you are struggling with are increasing your risk of chronic health problems and early death. Being overweight, having high blood pressure, poor diet consisting of high salt, saturated fats and sugars are every day occurrences that are affecting your energy, sleep and heart health.

Heart Risk Factors

When we look at heart disease, it is important to know some of the leading causes to best understand how to reduce your risks. According to The American Heart Association, the following factors greatly increase the risk of heart disease:- Smoking tobacco- High blood pressure- High cholesterol – Physical Inactivity- Obesity- Heredity- Unmanaged diabetes.

This list of risk factors may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that numerous studies have offered solutions to lower your risk profile by manageable lifestyle and diet changes, even if you are predisposed to heart disease. Don’t worry, we are going to discuss some of the natural ways to reduce your risk up next.

How To Reduce Your Risk?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the following list on their website for some general lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the threat of heart disease:

· Quit or don't start smoking

· Exercise regularly

· Maintain a healthy weight

· Eat a heart-healthy diet

FDA cardiologist Shari Targum, M.D explains this as, “For example, you can eat fruits and vegetables with each meal—and limit saturated fat and added sugars. And if you choose to eat meats, choose the leanest cuts available and prepare them in healthy ways.”

If you smoke or are considering starting, please contact a health professional to discuss all health risks associated with smoking, including cancer and possible death. Additionally, has some great resources for quitting.

Let’s dive right in and discuss diet, as eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the leading ways to reduce your risks.

Healthy Diet, Healthy Heart

“To think we can treat heart disease by lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and lowering blood sugar with medication alone is like mopping up the floor while we leave the faucet running as the sink overflows,” says Mark Hyman, MD

This clever analogy from Dr. Hyman highlights the need to discover the outlying causes that put you at risk for heart disease rather than just treating the symptoms with medication.

Does This Sound Familiar?

Betty visits her doc…

“Hi Betty, your cholesterol is 230, it’s way too high,

If you don’t get your cholesterol down and lose 30 pounds we have to put you on a statin or cholesterol lowering drug.”

In reality this report could be for Betty or a guy, Bob, because heart disease continues to be the number one killer in this country

Year after year,

Decade after decade,

Health disease, hypertension caused by poor diet, no exercise, obesity and insulin resistance are killing us and we are active participants!

Betty doesn’t want to take a medication (neither does Bob, but Betty’s more apt to listen to the doctor). Unfortunately, when a physician is overwhelmed or not connected to the nutritional aspects of health, they are unable give specific action steps to lose weight, eat healthy and lower cholesterol. This leaves you uncertain and unsure of what to do and what steps to take!

Let’s Get to the Heart of the Matter

Factors That Contribute to Cardiometabolic Syndrome:

1. abdominal obesity (waistline 40 inches or more in men, 35 inches or more in women)

2. high triglycerides

3. low “good” HDL cholesterol

4. high blood pressure (hypertension)

I am hesitant to say cardiometabolic syndrome can be cured but I am very hopeful that these risk factors can motivate someone to adopt a preventive approach to cardiometabolic syndrome and minimize risk factors as much as possible.

Jos Ordovs, PhD, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Research Lab at Tufts’ HNRCA, surmises, “When two or more of these risk factors coexist, it doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke and increases the risk of diabetes by a factor of 5 (both over a period of 5 to 10 years).

3 Steps to Prevent and Minimize Metabolic (Cardio) Issues

1. Diet Matters

2. Movement is a Must (measuring your METs)

3. Stress Relief

Diet Matters

It’s all about balance, adopting a balanced lifestyle, especially around food, sugar and alcohol is a must.

To optimize a preventive approach to the cardiac and metabolic disease mentioned earlier you must get serious about your eating habits. I’m not a fan of the word diet, in fact I believe it’s a dirty 4-letter word that is allowing you to be robbed of your health.

Diet connotes short term, do it and done. I’m talking about your lifestyle. The choices you make today will affect your health into the future.

If you want to be around for your daughter’s wedding or to meet your grandchildren, you can’t keep kicking your “diet” health down the road.

Foods to Eat for Heart and Healthy Weight

Understanding your Plate Portions is a must to gain control of eating a clean healthy diet. A clean diet, is a great guideline for getting started on your path to optimal health. What should you be eating?

· A variety of fruits and vegetables

· Whole grains

· Low-fat dairy products

· Skinless poultry and fish

· Nuts and legumes

· Non-tropical vegetable oils

This, however, is just the general guidelines and not relevant to everyone. You should speak with your physician about your individualized nutritional needs.

Foods To Ditch?

So now that we have an idea of what we should be feeding our heart. According to Time magazine, these are the word foods for your heart health:

- Fast food burgers

- Deep-fried foods

- Candy

- Soft drinks and sugar-sweetened juices

- Sugary cereals

- Cookies and pastries

- Margarine

- Meat lovers pizza

- Diet soda

Movement Is a Must

Get moving!

We are built to move and be active all day but the latest statistics show that our sedentary lifestyle is a culprit to poor health and early death.

Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., author of several studies on sedentary behavior and a professor at the University of Houston, said his own research shows adults spend more than nine hours a day being sedentary.

“I like to remind people that 30 minutes a day of exercise can’t immunize you from what you do the other 23-and-a-half hours,” said Hamilton.

You are burning energy all the time no matter what you are doing but obviously the more active you are the more energy you’ll burn. One way to calculate your body’s energy expenditure is with metabolic equivalents, also known as METs.

What are METs?

A MET is a measure, a ratio, of your active metabolic rate compared to your resting metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate is the rate of energy you are exerting per unit of time. Think of it as looking at the intensity of an exercise. You accumulate MET’s by more intensive exercise over time. In other words, your intensity of your exercise and how long you engage in the activity.

One MET is the energy you exert sitting at rest, which is also known as your resting metabolic rate. If you go for a brisk walk of 4 miles an hour, which has a MET of 4, you are exerting 4 times the amount of energy than if you were sitting still.

One MET is measured by the amount of oxygen (3.5 milliliters) consumer per kilogram of weight per minute of activity.

What Should Your MET goal Be?

Many gyms equipment and fitness trackers will calculate your MET activity. They recommend getting 600-1000 MET-minutes per week.

The American Heart Association, a trusted source recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week for optimal cardiovascular health. That’s equal to about 500 MET minutes per week, according to the Department of Health and Human ServicesTrusted Source.

Walking at a leisurely pace, washing dishes and yoga are around 2 MET per minute. Meaning you would have to do these activities for 5 hours a week. Example: 600 Met-min/ week divided by 2 Met activity = 300 minutes divided by 60 minutes in an hour, leaves you with 5 hours of slow-paced walking or yoga.

This begins to show you the activities you pick should get you breathing a little heavy without causing chest pain to get your oxygen consumption elevated and burning more METs.

Stress Relief

Stress has profound health effects, poor sleep, inhibits digestion, muscle tightness, mood changes and vessel constriction.

It is imperative if you suffer from hypertension that you incorporate a stress reduction technique into your daily routine. This is even more important if you have a stressful job, an unhappy relationship or are overweight and have current health issues.

Stress hormones, cortisol and DHEA, are constantly at work to keep us in balance with our thoughts, pressures and environmental demands. Neurotransmitters also affect these complex hormones.

Cortisol is known as the belly fat hormone. As stress increases, cortisol increases, breathing becomes shallower and blood vessels constrict.

Since 50% of us are walking around with a heart disease risk factor and hypertension is common and many times undiagnosed it is imperative that you have your stress hormones evaluated by a functional nutritionist.

Cardiometabolic Biomarker Testing

Here are to lab testing that I routinely recommend and do on my clients to assess overall risk for cardiometabolic syndrome:

· Lipid panel by Cleveland Heart Lab

· Comprehensive CBC

· A1C

· Fasting blood glucose

· Fasting C-Peptide

· C-Reactive protein (CRP)

· Vitamin D

· Thyroid panel as needed

Biomarkers that should be frequently assessment at home:

· Blood pressure

· Body weight

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