Metabolic Syndrome – What’s the big deal?

Metabolic Syndrome – Do I have it?


Metabolic Syndrome is becoming increasingly more common. 1 out of 5 adults in Canada has metabolic syndrome and that number balloons to greater than 40% of Canadians over the age of 65! So, if you don’t have metabolic syndrome, you may be at risk of developing it in the future.


I understand how these stats show how prevalent Metabolic Syndrome is in the adult population, but why is it a big deal?


Unfortunately, having metabolic syndrome puts you at a much higher risk of having some serious health problems. It is estimated that you are 5 times more likely to die of a heart attack or a stroke in the next 10 years when you have metabolic syndrome. You are also 5 times more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes which also puts you at risk for many other serious health concerns.


OK, it sounds like this is something I should pay attention to. What exactly is Metabolic Syndrome?


Metabolic Syndrome is diagnosed when someone has at least 3 out of a cluster of 5 conditions. These conditions include:

1.     Abdominal Adiposity (Excess body fat around the waist)

  • Waist girth > 102 cm (40 inches) for males
  • Waist girth > 88 cm (34.5 inches) for females


2.     High Blood Pressure

  • BP > 130/85 or on BP medications


3.     High Triglycerides

  • Greater than 1.7 mmol/L (Greater than 150mg/dL or on meds)


4.     Low HDL Cholesterol

  • Less than 1.0 mmol/L for males (Less than 40mg/dL or on meds)
  • Less than 1.3 mmol/L for females (Less than 50mg/dL or on meds)


5.     Elevated Blood Sugars

  • Fasting blood sugar between 5.6 – 7.0 mmol/L (Greater than 100 mg/dL or on meds)


This syndrome is closely linked with obesity, especially when body fat is deposited in the abdominal area.


It is also closely linked with ‘decreased insulin sensitivity’ or ‘insulin resistance’. This means that the body’s cells don’t respond to insulin in the normal way and sugar (glucose) in the blood stream has a more difficult time getting into the cells. This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels and as a result, the body makes more and more insulin to try to lower them.


So how do I make sure I don’t get Metabolic Syndrome or what do I do if I already have it?


The factors that put you at higher risk for developing metabolic syndrome include:

1.     Physical inactivity

2.     High sugar, high fat, high calorie diet

3.     Obesity

4.     Age

5.     Previously having gestational diabetes or having a family history of diabetes


The best part of Metabolic Syndrome is that it responds very well to healthy lifestyle choices. Regular physical activity and healthy nutrition as part of an overall plan to maintain a healthy body weight can have a huge impact on both lowering your risk of developing metabolic syndrome or actually reversing it if you already have it.


It is also important to note that if leading a healthy lifestyle does not get your blood pressure or cholesterol to the target ranges, appropriate medical treatment is recommended to control those risk factors.


If you have questions regarding metabolic syndrome, or the strategies to follow with exercise and nutrition – be sure to reach out to us!

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Shawna Cook

Shawna is a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, who has been working in Cardiac Rehabilitation for over 10 years. Her years in the health and fitness field however have spanned over the past 2+ decades. As an elite level athlete she fell in love with understanding the human body, and how the choices she made, affected how it performed. This led to a degree from the University of Winnipeg in the stream of Athletic Therapy, and the passion towards helping others recover from injury and "be their best selves" grew.