Metabolic Syndrome

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

You must have heard the term Metabolic Syndrome. Getting obese and having high blood lipids (LDL cholesterol) are early signs of this syndrome.

Exercise daily, go on low GI, unprocessed, high fibre diet to reverse the process and sustain a healthy lifestyle. With over-eating the wrong foods, you could get elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar and high serum triglycerides. They -are all qualifying factors for metabolic syndrome. This syndrome increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. In the US about 35% of the adult population, irrespective of the sex seems to suffer from this syndrome. It also implies, you could nip it in the bud with proper food and exercise. Then, how come such preventable diseases like heart disease and diabetes increasing so alarmingly in the most developed countries?

Genetic and environment factors too play a role in developing metabolic syndrome. If you are born to a family that shows a history of heart disease and diabetes, it is more likely that you would get the syndrome unless you take measures to prevent it.

Environment factors such as sedentary life and progressive weight gain are contributory factors to the risk of this syndrome. However, it is present in a small percentage of people with normal body weight.

Metabolic syndrome X, cardio-metabolic syndrome, syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome and Reaven's syndrome are other names for Metablic Syndrome.

Most disorders associated with this syndrome may not be detectable early, other than an increasing waist line circumference and general obesity. This comes on with jolly life patterns, drinking excessive alcohol, consuming fatty calorie dense food. Your blood sugar may get raised with eating starchy foods such as rice, potatoes, and dessert, among others. This is accompanied with thirst and frequent nocturnal urination, fatigue and blurred vision.

Chance of getting metabolic syndrome is very high if you live in Sri Lanka. The expats who live in Sri Lanka for a few months on a holiday do experience the early signs. People more often eat processed foods since they are much tastier and cheaper than whole foods. Starchy foods such as white rice, potatoes, white bread, and other foods cooked in rice or wheat flour are considered their daily staple foods.

Adding 4 spoons of white sugar into a cup of tea or coffee seems to be standard. Obesity and increased waist lines are prevalent among the population, more among the affluent classes, including the school kids. Ladies wearing the sari seems to hide their signs of metabolic syndrome.

There is very little health education on nutrition over the mass media in Sri Lanka. A most popular daily programmes on tele is cooery demonstrations, and most of them reveal how one could cook tasty foods using plenty of unhealthy oils, frying techniques and creating pleasant able calorie dense foods.
The incidence of diabetes type 2 and coronary heart disease are very high in Sri Lanka compared to most other developing countries.

Diabetes is not a disease that will kill you prematurely provided you take adequate health measures on a daily basis to contain the progress and eradicating the risk factors. It is self-discipline and eating low glycaemic index foods, with daily exercise that will control the disease.

Diet to prevent Metabolic Syndrome:
Fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods
At least 30 g of fibre per day
Lean proteins
Reduce sugar and salt consumption
Drink little or no alcohol
Balance fat, carbohydrate, protein and cholesterol consumption to specific ratios.

Other concerns:
Metabolic syndrome is associated with fatty livers, meaning there is accumulation of fat in excess, resulting in inflammation and the potential risk for cirrhosis.
The kidneys can also get affected as there is an association with micro albuminuria. Leakage of albumin (protein) through the kidneys is an early sign of kidney failure. With further damage more albumins will leak out and that stage we call it "macro-albuminuria when the urine colour changes.

Other problems associated with metabolic syndrome include obstructive sleep apnoea, polycystic ovary syndrome, and increased risk of dementia with ageing and cognitive decline in the elderly.

Be aware that you could get this syndrome with an unhealthy lifestyle. Always exercise daily, eat a nutritionally balanced diet, keep your weight in check and home cooked food would be preferable to eating from food outlets. Check your blood pressure frequently, see your doctor and get your annual blood tests done to prevent problems.

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