Tips on How to Avoid Metabolic Syndrome

You may have never heard of metabolic syndrome. However, you could have one or more of the risk factors that make up this condition. If you are overweight, have high triglycerides or high blood sugar, read on. The information here can help you manage your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of five risk factors that increase your chance of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The five risk factors are:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • High triglycerides
  • Low HDL cholesterol (sometimes known as good cholesterol)
  • Obesity (especially if most of your weight is around your middle)

If you have at least three of these five risk factors, your doctor may diagnose metabolic syndrome. In general, you’re twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes if you have metabolic syndrome. The good news is that it's possible to prevent or delay metabolic syndrome by losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking and improving your eating habits.

Can I prevent metabolic syndrome?

You can help prevent metabolic syndrome by taking the following steps:

1. Lose weight to prevent metabolic syndrome

Studies show that losing even 10% of your body weight can help:

  • lower triglycerides
  • raise good HDL cholesterol
  • lower blood pressure 
  • lower blood sugar

Weight loss is vital if you have a lot of fat around your middle. Your goal for preventing metabolic syndrome is to have a waist measurement of less than 35 inches for women or less than 40 inches for men. Click here to learn how to check your waist measurement.

2. Eat well to avoid metabolic syndrome

Making health food choices can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Here are some tips:

  • Follow Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Get 21-38 grams of fibre each day from fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Choose lean sources of protein such as skinless poultry, lean meat, fish, tofu, beans and lentils.
  • Keep dietary cholesterol under 200 mg/day by limiting eggs, liver, shrimp and full-fat dairy products. 
  • Keep saturated and trans fat low by choosing less deep-fried food, baked goods, fatty meat, full-fat dairy and fast food.
  • Choose unsaturated fats such as oil or non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter.
  • Limit sodium. Avoid salty processed foods including soup, deli meat, frozen entrees, canned goods and sauces. Click here for more helpful tips on lowering your salt intake.
  • Have no more than 1-2 alcohol drinks per day. Learn more about alcohol intake here.

3. Be active to avoid metabolic syndrome

Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes each day. Regular exercise can help reduce weight and blood pressure levels. Increasing exercise to 60 minutes each day can increase the benefit. If you’re new to physical activity, speak to your doctor before getting started.

4. Quit smoking to avoid metabolic syndrome

Smoking remains the leading cause of heart disease, so it is important to cut back or quit. Click here for information on how to quit smoking.

The bottom line

To avoid metabolic syndrome, change your lifestyle by eating right, exercising, quitting smoking and losing weight. Speak to your doctor if these lifestyle changes aren't enough; you may need medicine to treat and control risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

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Last Update – July 23, 2021

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