By Lisa Kroopf with contributions from FlexMedStaff
As physicians, we aim to identify and mitigate the risk factors associated with chronic diseases. Some interventions and strategies are gaining ground with physicians who want to enhance the quality of life and life expectancy of their patients. These interventions range from preventive medicine and functional medicine to specialty care focused on disease prevention by utilizing lifestyle changes to modify the reversible causes of aging.
Americans ain’t healthy.
Despite the vast resources and advances in healthcare in this nation, the health of the American population is declining. Life expectancy in this country is declining mainly due to the increase in preventable diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. One of the main reasons for this decline in health is the lack of emphasis on preventive medicine in the US healthcare system. It’s estimated that only 3-5% of healthcare spending is allocated to preventive measures. This lack of investment in preventative medicine leads to a reactive rather than a proactive approach to healthcare, ultimately resulting in more severe illnesses and higher healthcare costs.
Moreover, the American diet and lifestyle choices also contribute to our declining life expectancy. According to the CDC, about 40% of Americans are obese, and more than half do not meet the recommended level of physical activity. These lifestyle choices increase the risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic abnormalities associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular events, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The syndrome is characterized by a combination of at least three conditions: central obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, high triglyceride levels, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. Metabolic syndrome has been associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and an increased risk of cancer.
We discuss five nutrition and lifestyle modifications that can be made to improve metabolic health and prevent chronic diseases.
#1. Healthy Diet. A heart-healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. The diet should be low in sodium, added sugars, and saturated and trans fats. This diet can help reduce blood pressure, improve blood glucose control, and lower cholesterol levels.
#2. Physical Activity. Regular physical activity is also essential for improving metabolic health. Everyone should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week and muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. Physical activity can help to lower blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, and promote weight loss.
#3. Quit Smoking. Nicotine can be detrimental to your health and increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Whether you smoke, vape, or chew, eliminate this habit to improve your metabolic health.
#4. Reduce Alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to metabolic syndrome, and reducing alcohol intake can help to improve metabolic health.
#5. Good Sleep. Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health and can help to improve insulin sensitivity and blood pressure control. Try to get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
We must educate ourselves and our patients on how to prevent and mitigate the detrimental effects of metabolic syndrome. This country is sick, and we must do something to improve the life expectancy of our patients and our loved ones. Let’s raise awareness about metabolic syndrome and how we can live healthier lives.
- Grundy SM. Metabolic syndrome pandemic. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2008;28(4):629-636.
- American Heart Association. Metabolic Syndrome. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/metabolic-syndrome. Accessed February 21, 2023.
- Eckel RH, Alberti KG, Grundy SM, Zimmet PZ. The metabolic syndrome. Lancet. 2010;375(9710):181-183.