In fact, according to the American Heart Association, about 50 million Americans have what has been termed metabolic syndrome. Although this is not a disease in itself, it raises red flags and is a strong predictor of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, someone is believed to have metabolic syndrome if he or she has three of the following conditions:
- Waist measuring equal to or greater than 35 inches in women and equal to or greater than 40 inches in men
- Fasting blood glucose of 100 mg/dL or higher
- Triglycerides at or above 150 mg/dL
- HDL, or ďgoodĒ cholesterol level below 50 mg/dL in women or below 40 mg/dL in men
- Blood pressure at or above 130 over 85 mm Hg
Weight, lack of exercise and genetics contribute to this syndrome. There is some debate about the definition of metabolic syndrome, but the reality is that any one of these five risk factors increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease and can signal greater susceptibility to chronic health problems. So pay attention to the signs.
Two out of three Americans are now considered overweight or obese. As a result, a growing number of adults and children are developing diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body is unable to properly use the energy it gets from food. Thatís because with diabetes the body does not produce insulin or use it properly. Without enough insulin, glucose canít get to the cells. Glucose, a form of sugar, is the basic fuel for cells to make energy and grow.
But you can help lower your risk of diabetes. Even if youíre at your ideal weight or your blood sugar levels are within the normal range, you should commit to living healthier. This will help curb your risk for developing diabetes and other health problems down the road.
Small changes can make a big difference. So, what are you waiting for?
Talk to your health care provider. Find out if you are at risk for diabetes or if you have pre-diabetes. Ask if you should be tested for pre-diabetes and/or if he or she can calculate your body mass index (BMI), which describes body weight relative to height and is strongly correlated with total body fat content in adults. To calculate your BMI, go to http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/. Also, discuss steps you can take to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and work together to set realistic goals for weight loss and physical activity.
Make healthful food choices for you and your family. Eating a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol will help you prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, as well as heart disease and certain cancers. Eat meals that include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish and lean meats. Choose grilled or baked foods over those that are fried. Drink water and calorie-free "diet" drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other drinks that are packed with sugar.
Maintain a healthy weight. Losing even 10 pounds and exercising for 30 minutes five times a week cuts your chances of developing diabetes. Excess weight, especially around the waist, can be hard on your body and is associated with diabetes and heart disease. If you're trying to lose weight, stick with a nutritious low calorie diet, put less on your plate and exercise regularly.
Stay active. Try to get 30 minutes of physical activity most days a week. Regular exercise improves blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar and boosts your overall fitness. Itís important to include strength training and flexibility exercises in addition to aerobic activities. As always, itís best to talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
Drink alcohol in moderation. If you drink alcohol, limit your consumption to no more than one drink per day (no more than two for men). One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one five-ounce glass of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
Find ways to relax. Whether itís through meditation, exercise, curling up and reading a good book or listening to your favorite music, carve out some time to relax.
Stick with It. Making even modest lifestyle changes isnít easy. Youíll need discipline, patience and the support of those around you. But it will be well worth the effort. Adopting healthier habits will not only help lower your risk of diabetes, it will also improve your overall health and boost your energy level.
To be successful, try tackling one change at a time. And donít be too hard on yourself if you have a couple of bad days after making progress. You may want to consider making it a family affair, especially if diabetes or heart disease runs in your family.
© 2013. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. All rights reserved. All content provided in this guide is for information purposes only. Any information herein relating to specific medical conditions, preventive care and/or healthy lifestyles does not suggest individual diagnosis or treatment and is not a substitute for medical attention.Back to Diabetes Guide Home Page
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