Can You Prevent Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome?
Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome are two conditions that carry dangerous health risks. Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body can’t use the glucose, or sugar, it creates during digestion. It remains in the bloodstream and leads to high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. Unmanaged, high blood sugar damages nerves and blood vessels and can lead to loss of vision, limbs, organ functioning—and life. Like diabetes, metabolic syndrome is another dangerous health condition.
Metabolic syndrome, sometimes called Syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, or dysmetabolic syndrome, is a group of conditions that together wreak havoc on our health. Metabolic syndrome involves these general disorders and conditions:
- Elevated blood sugar levels (prediabetes)
- High cholesterol
- High triglyceride levels (fats in the bloodstream)
- High blood pressure
- Excess abdominal fat
Each of these health concerns can stand alone, and when someone has just one it poses health risks; however, when someone experiences multiple components together, the potential for harm rises significantly.
Why Preventing Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome is Important
The conditions occurring together in metabolic syndrome carry dire consequences. People with metabolic syndrome are in danger of developing:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attack
- Type 2 diabetes
These develop thanks to damage done by metabolic syndrome:
- Artery damage
- Kidney changes, including a decreased ability to remove salt
- Blood clots
- Decreased insulin production, indicative of the start of type 2 diabetes
These health problems can be frightening. Knowing if you’re at risk can help you understand what’s in store.
Who Gets Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome affects about 23 percent of adults in the US (American Heart Association, 2016). The risk for this condition increases with age; 40 percent of people in their 60s and 70s have metabolic syndrome. People who are obese and have features of insulin resistance, such as skin changes, have an increased risk of both type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
To be diagnosed with this syndrome, people must have at least three of the following:
- Abdominal obesity (a 40” waist in man and a 35” waist in women)
- Blood pressure with a 130 mmHg systolic (top) reading or an 85 mmHg diastolic (bottom) reading
- Fasting blood glucose level of 100 mg/dL or higher)
- HDL (“good”) cholesterol level less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 in women
Metabolic syndrome is dangerous, as is diabetes. When we understand the causes, we can learn how to prevent them from developing.
The Causes of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes are The Keys to Prevention and Health
The best way to treat these disorders is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. But even if you have already been diagnosed with diabetes or metabolic syndrome, you can stop the progression of damage to prevent other associated health problems.
Preventing them involves knowing the causes and working to reverse them. Causes include:
- Insulin resistance (the body doesn’t use its insulin efficiently, resulting in hyperglycemia)
- Overweight and obesity
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor sleep
- Genetic factors
- Older age
All of these can be controlled and prevented, including, to some extent, genetic factors and age. Of course, you can’t change your genetic makeup or your age, but you can compensate for them and minimize their negative impact with the same actions you take to prevent the other factors.
A healthy, balanced diet high in nutrients and low in processed foods and sugar is essential. Adding or increasing physical activity plays a huge role in preventing or managing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Weight management is crucial, too, and when you eat well and exercise, weight loss occurs naturally.
Lifestyle changes are the most powerful way to prevent metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Sometimes, such changes alone aren’t enough to manage some of these conditions, so doctors may prescribe medication designed to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood sugar. These are never meant to replace lifestyle factors. How you live and the choices you make for your health are the most potent means of prevention.
American Heart Association and the Life’s Simple 7®
The American Heart Association has created a plan for a healthy heart and healthy life called Life’s Simple 7®. Following the simple plan drastically reduces your risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and all of the health problems associated with them.
These seven lifestyle steps can help you reclaim your life. Trying to incorporate all of them at once can be overwhelming, so feel free to start small and gradually increase. More details are on the Life’s Simple 7® page. Here are the seven prevention tips suggested by the AHA:
- Manage blood pressure
- Decrease blood sugar
- Control cholesterol
- Be active
- Eat healthy
- Lose weight
- Stop smoking
Keep your ultimate goal in mind: your version of a long, healthy life with the ability to do what’s important to you. Not only can you stave off metabolic syndrome and diabetes, but you can also greatly improve overall physical and mental health.
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Peterson, T. (2022, January 4). Can You Prevent Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/diabetes/main/can-you-prevent-diabetes-and-metabolic-syndrome