Metabolic Syndrome: The Monster Making Us More Vulnerable To COVID-19.
Since the coronavirus pandemic started, we have heard about risk factors including obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol – among others. We have also been struck by the fact that Hispanics and minorities have been disproportionately hit by the virus and its effects, including higher death tolls. Although there are many factors involved, such as a lack of medical care, experts agree that the main trigger is basically metabolic syndrome. What is this syndrome that affects us so much? How can we know if we are suffering from it? What can we do to stop it? Let's find out.
Metabolic syndrome is a snowball effect that, if not stopped in time, causes an avalanche of a disaster to our health, and can even result in death. It involves several risk factors that a person may have, such as hypertension and insulin resistance, which increase the possibility of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, as well as makes a person much more vulnerable to infection complications because it also alters the body’s inflammation markers. (1)
It works like a vicious circle, potentiating one risk factor to another and, although the genetic predisposition we have has some influence, we owe most of it to our lifestyle, since it all usually starts due to being sedentary. (1)
Lack of physical activity increases the possibility of developing obesity and resistance to insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar and converting it to energy.
A sedentary lifestyle also raises triglycerides and the risk of heart disease, artery blockage, angina, and heart attack.
Similarly, inactivity weakens the bones, increasing the likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
A sick body, normally, is unable to fight these problems and increase physical activity, adding fuel to an already lit fire.
How can I recognize if I have metabolic syndrome?
There are certain characteristics that can determine if we have or are on the verge of developing metabolic syndrome. A quick home test would be to check if you have 3 or more of the following factors. From that you can deduce if you likely suffer from it, and you can immediately go to your doctor to confirm and take appropriate measures.
Abdominal circumference in men more than 40 inches and in women more than 35 inches.
Blood pressure over 130/85.
Triglycerides more than 150 mg/dl.
HDL, or good cholesterol, in men less than 40 mg/dl and in women less than 50 mg/dl.
Fasting glucose greater than 100 mg/dl.
What measures should we take to curb metabolic syndrome?
Reduce carbohydrate intake. The priority is to control and reduce obesity and any excess weight. For this, the most elementary and least difficult step is to reduce the amount of carbohydrates, especially those coming from processed flours and sugars. (1)
Eliminate sodas, including diet sodas. This simple measure alone sometimes equals the greatest amount of weight loss. Studies show impressive weight gain, especially around the belly, in people who drink soda constantly, associating abdominal obesity with an increased risk of metabolic and cardiological problems as we age (2). Some research shows that in adults, consumption of caloric non-alcoholic beverages, including soft drinks and fruit juices, increases the odds of developing obesity by an average of 10 years old (3).
Eliminate or significantly lower alcohol. People who consume alcohol not only gain weight by consuming empty calories and potentiating possible damage to organs involved in metabolism, such as the liver, but are also unable to lose weight in the long term. The flipside is that by reducing alcohol consumption, weight is significantly improved in people suffering from diabetes. (4)
Exercise. There is nothing new about reminding you that exercise is always the most sacred of medicines when it comes to your health. Not only does it help us lose weight, but it also reduces cardiovascular risk and generates adequate energy balance and consumption within our body. According to studies, a “minimum” average of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense physical activity weekly can make a tremendous difference to your health (5).
Control stress and get enough sleep. Both can interfere in the body’s proper metabolic performance, altering it and making us gain weight in the process. Therefore, learning to manage stress is vital for weight control and all its consequences, since it is also associated with an improved mood and better nutrition patterns in the long term. (6)
Supplements that can improve Metabolic Syndrome
There are several natural compounds that, aside from representing an important nutritional source, provide benefits to support the different facets of metabolic syndrome. While they are not recommended as a replacement for conventional medical treatment, they are suggested as support. These include:
Cinnamon: It has anti-inflammatory properties and improves insulin sensitivity, fasting blood glucose and blood pressure. (1)
Neem: Improves insulin secretion and lowers postprandial hyperglycemia. (1)
Cumin: Lowers blood lipid and glucose levels. (1)
Fenugreek: Lowers triglycerides, total cholesterol, and postprandial blood glucose, and increases insulin sensitivity. (1)
Ginger: Anti-inflammatory and lowers systolic blood pressure. (1)
Nopal: For sugar control. (7)
Omega 3: To lower triglycerides. (1)
Hibiscus Flower Tea: For blood pressure control. (8)
Red Yeast Rice: For lowering cholesterol. (9)
Ashwagandha: For stress management. (10)
Resveratrol: To lower insulin resistance. (1)
Quercetin: An anti-inflammatory and lowers cholesterol and glucose. (1)
These options should be part of healthy habits which, as you know, is the cornerstone of good health. It all starts with the right diet, physical activity, and the best attitude to achieve a bright future in better health!
Check out the video of our founder and director, Dr. Juan Rivera, talking about the subject.
Let's be healthier, together!
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